The AFL Commission will surely end months of procrastination over the next 24 hours and finally correct the flawed favouritism it bestowed upon its youngest club by handing it a virtual Australian rules grass-roots recruiting zone.
The border town of Albury and its immediate Murray River surrounds can no longer be considered a NSW development academy for Greater Western Sydney despite that club’s valiant attempts to retain it.
This is not alone a case of rival club sour grapes over Albury’s Caulfield Grammar protege Will Setterfield, the Giants soon-to-be-unveiled No.5 national draft pick, nor his near neighbour and next year’s high draft prospect Charlie Spargo, who boards at Melbourne Grammar.
The breakdown of where players were drafted from last year
Because in this instance the clubs have every right to their disenchantment when a virtual Victorian region with a TAC club down the road is double-handed as a development academy. Albury, not the entire Riverina, is the issue. And it muddies the water for every other northern club working to pioneer the national code in foreign territory. Not to mention yet again raising the question of the maligned and henpecked father-son rule.
This is not the so-called football battle ground of Sydney’s west we are talking about. And despite the success of the GWS academy – which produced seven drafted players (plus three rookies) compared with three home-grown South Australians – no player apart from Israel Folau has yet come to the club from that true west battleground.
And the commission should say no to the Giants’ compromise solution, which has already been rejected by virtually every other club in the competition.
That compromise would see Sydney, which has drafted just three top 20 players over 16 years from its heavily staffed and funded NSW academy, forced to potentially sacrifice local talent altogether should it finish in the top four or even the top eight.
The AFL has a strange relationship with its youngest club. The Giants are flourishing and on every measure have outperformed the Gold Coast, albeit after the competition relaxed its list-establishment rules for GWS. The Giants strongly reject any suggestion of a master-servant relationship with head office and have in recent times successfully taken on the AFL.
And head office resents the suggestion it has buckled under pressure from its 18th club. But that’s what it did when club chief – and former senior AFL executive – David Matthews refused to deal with Gillon McLachlan on the Lachie Whitfield penalties and ultimately achieved a small but significant victory.
If there is a pattern in both battles it is that the AFL has taken too long to act. No amount of defence from the league can justify why it took so long to move on Whitfield given it had received advice on the case several months before it became public.
And the academy debate has waged through all of last season and should have been ruled upon around the time of the draft. Jarrod Brander, another key-position draft prospect, has been the subject of an AFL investigation over his dual home addresses of Wentworth and Mildura since last July and still the league has failed to reach a verdict.
Brander and Spargo, who the club insists is determined to become a Giant, have started their year 12 studies still in the dark about their football futures and in less than a fortnight will line up for their GWS Academy in the under-18 championships. Or not, depending on the AFL verdict.
If as expected the boundaries are redrawn the Giants will request a stay of execution until after the 2017 draft and probably have a case given the AFL delays. All of which will further enrage their opponents given the talent at stake. Either way there will be disenchantment.
The so-called influential Victorian bloc can be whingers at times and the Swans are occasionally guilty of an over-inflated sense of entitlement but on this issue they have the backing of the Brisbane Lions and the Gold Coast along with all four of the West and South Australian clubs. The time for murky compromises has passed when one clear and decisive act will solve the problem.
It is simply not right to hand what is essentially a grass-roots region on the Victorian border to one club simply because the town sits on the NSW side.
GWS, as ever, have fought the good fight but in this case the club looks certain to lose and so should it. However, this is a call the AFL should have made long ago.
2016 National Draft – 77 players chosen
Victoria – 44
Western Australia – 12
NSW – 9
(Seven from GWS academy zone, including the Riverina: Will Setterfield, Harry Perryman, Isaac Cumming, Lachie Tiziani, Kobe Much to Essendon, Harrison Macreadie to Carlton, Ryan Garwaite to Richmond *)
Queensland – 6
(Give from Gold Coast and Brisbane Lions academy zones: Jack Bowes and Brad Scheer to Gold Coast, Declan Watson and Josh Williams to Nth Melb, Jacob Allison to Brisbane Lions)
South Australia – 3
Northern Territory – 3
Tasmania – 0
* Plus rookies Zach Sproule (to Giants), Sam Fisher (to Sydney) and Max Lynch (to Collingwood)
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.