Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Change the Father-Son rule

There great red sandy plains are rumbling.  It appears Melbourne Football Club will have to use the 3rd overall selection in this year's AFL draft to select Jack Viney, the son of former captain Todd.

Viney, courtesy: The Age
Before 2007, the promising sons of former club greats were available pre-draft to their father's club at the cost of that club's third-round selection.  That system changed to a "bid" system in 2007, where, should another club guarantees Viney selection in a certain round - say, the first - then the Demons have to match that offer and select the player with their own pick in the same round.  Melbourne has the third pick in this year's draft - meaning if another club values Jack Viney as a first-rounder, the Demons have to pick him third or lose him.

The "bid" system was implemented in response to Geelong adding Tom Hawkins via the old rule.  The power forward would almost certainly have been drafted first overall and arrived at a club already boasting Father-Son picks Gary Ablett Jr, Nathan Ablett, Matthew Scarlett and Mark Blake.  The Cats - who had decided consciously to re-embrace their past and locality -  were seen to be favoured so much that the rule was changed (never mind that the Abletts would have been third-round picks at best, while Scarlett and Blake probably wouldn't have been drafted if not their connexion to the Cats)*.

The Cats were rewarded for embracing their history.  Alongside the five listed above, they have also selected the sons of Andrew Bews, Terry Callan, Michael Woolnough, Garry Fletcher and Larry Donohue.  Of those five, four were busts and Bews is far from the final product.

Gary Ablett Jr, courtesy Wikipedia
The old rule was shouted down when some clubs got jealous - and with ample justification.  Adelaide is yet to select a Father-Son player in twenty-plus years of drafting, while Fremantle has only Brett Peake from seventeen.  A standard system, still at a significant cost - say, the old third-round pick - is fair, just as long as interstate clubs are able to participate as well.  However, drawing players from the SANFL and WAFL is more complex - nobody wants another Bryce Gibbs fiasco.  Perhaps an adequate compromise could be a total of games (200?) in which they play the majority (135-150?) with one of one "feeder" clubs.

The current rule places all the advantage in the hands of opposing teams, rather than the team who should benefit from their past.  At best, a bidding team gets a draft pick at market value.  At worst, they force the "parent" club into the contrived position of potentially mortgaging a part of their future against their past greats - a tricky situation.  The only sons now selected are generally "can't miss" prospects like Mitch Wallis, Joe Daniher and Jack Viney.  Without the Father-Son rule in 1997, the Cats wouldn't have unearthed the greatest full-back in history**.

The league shouldn't penalise clubs for drafting family.  It runs opposite to the family atmosphere the AFL has so successfully created.  History should be celebrated, rather than becoming a burden - it's great that the Western Bulldogs Footscray fans can see Liberatore and Wallace combine again, while the sight of Scarlett to Bews to Little Gary to Hawkins is a great callback to the free-flowing Cats of the1980s.

It isn't a retrograde step to look back fondly on history.  Embracing one's past is a concept that underlies a healthy collective - so it's time for the AFL to allow clubs to do so without penalty.

* You got me, I'm a Geelong supporter - but have felt this way since the rule was changed.
** Yes, I'm biased, but if you want I can give you a dozen reasons why.

No comments:

Post a Comment