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Time to scrap priority picks.

The AFL introduced a special priority draft pick back in 1997. The deal was that any team that won 5 games or under for the season would be allocated a special priority draft pick over and above the high draft picks they would already receive for finishing on or near the bottom of the ladder.

The intentions seemed sound enough to begin with, try and accelerate the development of the struggling teams and make for a more even competition.

In its first year, Melbourne finished on the bottom with just four wins for the season, and nobody begrudged them receiving a priority pick for that year.

However it was in 1998 that my own suspicions as to team's intentions were raised. In particular I refer to round 18, 1998. In a Saturday night game at the 'Gabba ground in Brisbane, the Lions hosted Hawthorn in a bottom-two clash.

With just five games of the season remaining both sides were heading for under five wins. It is now alleged that during the week prior to this game, Hawthorn coach Ken Judge was asked to "throw" games by board member Don Scott, in order to secure a priority draft pick for having less than five wins.

What happened on this Saturday night at the 'Gabba still permeates my memory, and sticks in my guts like a spear. For three-quarters, it was BLATANTLY obvious BOTH teams were trying to lose, I REPEAT TRYING.

Making silly plays, not making ANY attempt to take marks, not making any attacks on the ball, it almost brought me to tears to see this great game of ours decimated to just a mere shadow. Thankfully, some sanity prevailed late in the third-quarter when Hawthorn knew there was no way they were going to lose the match, and proceeded to actually play half-decent football and win by 39 points. Not surprisingly, they actually decided to come to the party for their remaining four games of the season also, chalking impressive victories.

Also not surprisingly, Brisbane went on to win the wooden spoon and gain a priority draft pick, as has one club each season since.

This year, there's a chance that not one but three clubs could end up receiving the pick. Things have gotten to the stage now where clubs are deliberately losing games for the sake of a priority pick, hiding behind the old adage of "giving youngsters some game time".

It's fine to play some youngsters to prepare them for future years, but to stack one's side unreasonably, like bottom sides have in recent years and like no doubt some will this year, is not acceptable and is done for one reason and one reason only: priority draft picks.

It's not fair that year after year, thousands of football fans put their hard-earned cash into going to see their team play, and get ripped off, that's right ripped off by these teams who's first priority ISN'T winning the game of football.

The problem could be simply alleviated by removing these priority picks, so teams no longer have to be afraid of winning six games in a season.

The bottom teams would still get the highest draft picks, but mediocrity would not be unfairly rewarded. Plus let's not forget, in the case of a Brisbane in 1998, it was merely an aberration, a year full of injuries, they didn't need to have their list propped up by priority draft picks.

Let's not give teams any thoughts of throwing games, of stacking their side with youngsters with winning not being the ultimate priority.

It's time to get rid of the priority draft picks. New CEO Andrew Demetriou, the ball is in your court.
Thu 07/08/2003 Anthony James brady 34 views

1 Comments about this article

  • i agree

    Posted by Simon Harrex Thu Feb 12, 2004 09:36am AEST

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