Free agency 'could create AFL tiers' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Free agency 'could create AFL tiers'

By Sam Lienert and Roger Vaughan 01/03/2010 08:12:31 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse has warned the AFL risks a return to the pre-draft days of poor clubs being stuck near the foot of the ladder when free agency is introduced.

While the league's most experienced coach acknowledged the new transfer system, to begin in 2012, had been inevitable, he said the cost could be a current competition hallmark - the cyclical nature of success.

"What we have to get our heads around is if we take this on ... the other modifications to the payment system and the policing of it has to be acute," Malthouse told AAP.

"We may have a perpetual situation of certain sides never getting out of the bottom five or six.

"If that's the case, find out how hard it is then to raise money, get membership and keep them competitive, because it won't happen.

"You may as well start thinking about introducing a relegation system."

Malthouse said supporters of a poorly placed side currently had hope that over the course of three or four years their team might build to become finalists and perhaps even win a premiership.

"But you go back 30 years, if some sides made the finals once every five years, it was almost like party time, because they knew they'd probably be raided the next year by the better sides," he said.

In the decades preceding the first national draft in 1986, Melbourne spent 22 straight seasons out of the finals, while Footscray made the post-season just three times in the 29-year stretch from 1963 onwards.

The starkest example is St Kilda's 17 straight years in the finals wilderness, which included four successive wooden spoons from 1983-86.

Malthouse, entering his 27th season as a head coach, is well qualified to speak on the rich-poor divide, having started his career with struggling Footscray, before moving to powerhouses West Coast and then the Magpies.

Despite restrictions the AFL has devised on poaching the best-paid players, he said international experience indicated the player drift would be from unsuccessful to successful clubs.

"Generally speaking through every sport in the world, the better player wants to leave a bottom club and go to a better side; one for more money and two for more opportunity to play in finals," he said.

"It's a magnet for the clubs who have money and are successful ... you're not going to get too many players who put their hands up to go to the bottom clubs.

"Under those circumstances, if these legal - and I put it in inverted commas - these 'legal' payments outside the system (are) not controlled, then you're going to have a two-tiered system, like we had in the VFL.

"Midway through the year, you knew the top four because they had the money."

Malthouse said the competition's poorer clubs were unable to pay even the full salary cap, let alone devise ways to top that up outside the cap.

"Players will leave to play for more money and the better players who play for the better clubs, logic says they're going to be at the top for a lot longer than some of the struggling clubs."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2021 AAP

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