The trading setback that is fooling clubs

Ben Gibson - Thu, 11th Oct 2018 - 2 Comments

Every trade period, elite players are put on the table with early draft picks highlighted as the biggest prize of all.

But history suggests these picks are severely overrated, and prove to be more of a gamble than equivalent compensation.

Sure, every draft is bound to produce some future powerhouses of the league, but is the stab in the dark to find the next big thing really worth all the fuss?

Unless a side is committed to a long-term re-build, trading your best player for a draft pick is nothing short of a setback.

With the big names of Tom Lynch, Dylan Shiel, Jesse Hogan, Steven May and Dayne Beams all reportedly leaving their respective clubs in 2018, draft picks are likely to fill that void on the list.

Although this year is expected to produce a ‘super draft’, there is no guarantee the youngsters headed to each club will reach the heights of those proven stars.

These trades and compensation picks have become the norm, yet continuously fail to prove their worth.

In 2013, Lance Franklin – arguably one of the greatest players to ever take the field – left Hawthorn to sign a nine-year, $10 million, contract with the Swans.

Due to the free agency system, the Hawks received pick 19 as compensation for their six-time leading goal kicker, which was on-traded to St Kilda.

Effectively, Blake Acres was drafted to the Saints as Buddy’s replacement, with Hawthorn receiving Billy Hartung and Jonathon Ceglar in return for the champion.

At the end of 2010, two-time premiership player Gary Ablett left the Cats to join Gold Coast for its inaugural season.

Geelong used its top compensation pick to secure Billie Smedts – another prime example of a draft pick’s inability to provide equivalent value for the side losing their best player.

The system appears to be flawed.

Clubs obsess with acquiring grouped picks at the top-end of the draft, with the hope to land a group of teenagers who will carry their side into the next era.

Yet time and time again, sides are left with a bundle of unproven 18-year-olds, while their best player lines up for the opposition.

In recent years, clubs have taken the punt on multiple top-picks in an attempt to bolster their stocks.

Below are some of the selections that haven’t gone to plan:

2008 – Melbourne: 1. Jack Watts, 17. Sam Blease, 35. Jamie Bennell

2009 – Port Adelaide: 8. John Butcher, 9. Andrew Moore, 16. Jasper Pittard

2010 – Carlton: 18. Matthew Watson, 34. Patrick McCarthy, 42. Luke Mitchell

2011 – Fremantle: 16. Tom Sheridan, 20. Hayden Crozier, 29. Alex Forster

2012 – St Kilda: 24. Nathan Wright, 25. Spencer White, 40. Brodie Murdoch, 43. Josh Saunders

2013 – Hawthorn: 24. Billy Hartung, 38. Dayle Garlett

2014 – GWS: 4. Jarrod Pickett, 6. Caleb Marchbank, 7. Paul Ahern

So as this year’s trade period runs its course and picks are swapped for proven guns, the clubs will have to wait to see if they can develop a draftee and gain sufficient long-term compensation for their loss.

Carlton Banks

7 months ago

You’ve missed the point here. Cap space being cleared is the asset that you get back in addition to the draft picks. I think list managers have cottoned on to this, fans and media types, not so much. Salary dumps in the NBA are the extreme case of this, bad contracts are traded out WITH draft picks not for draft picks. AFL will get there eventually.

Adrian Bland

7 months ago

What a poorly written article. Port and GWS are the only clubs named that grouped first round picks, and if you’re going to pick a GWS year then why not 2011 or 2012? Didn’t fit the narrative I suppose? What about referencing Hawthorn 2001 or, most famously, 2004. Oh that pesky narrative gets in the way again right!