AFL players push radical free agency plan

AFL players are pushing hard for a new free agency that would be make it much easier for players to move to a third club.

Under the game-changing proposal from the AFLPA, the players, who are negotiating a revised series of terms and conditions with the AFL, have pushed for a ‘‘portable’’ free agency, in which the player would only need a four-year stint at one particular club to qualify, provided he had completed eight years overall in the AFL system.

The AFL is treating the proposal with caution since free agency has only been operating for two seasons but has not ruled out this possibility, which if agreed upon could be introduced immediately – from the end of this season – or phased in during 2015 and working for the post-season of next year.

If this happened this year or next, it would transform the free agency landscape and enable more players – albeit mostly those on the second tier or well-know players at the end of their careers – to be free to move clubs.

The game’s most decorated player, Gary Ablett jnr, for instance, would become a free agent at the end of his next contract – because he will have completed more than four years with his second team (Ablett is in his fourth year at the Gold Coast, and 13th overall) – thus, he could leave if he wished and cross to the club of his choice.

Former Bulldog Jarrod Harbrow would be elibible for free agency when his current contract with the Gold Coast Suns expires. Harbrow is in his fourth season with the Suns and previously played for the Bulldog for four years after debuting in 2007.

Under the current system, Harbrow cannot be a free agent until the end of 2018, by which stage he'll be aged 30.

Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston, who is only 22, would become a free agent at Hawthorn two years earlier – at the end of 2017, rather than two years later, because his two years’ service at Adelaide would count and enable him to qualify.

The players say that the current system penalises players who switch  clubs, often because they are pushed out or seeking more opportunities.

‘‘We are involved in ongoing discussions with the AFL as part of the CBA [collective bargaining agreement] review,’’ said the AFL Players Association’s acting chief executive, Ian Prendergast.

‘‘One change we have proposed is to allow a player who moves clubs to be eligible for free agency after four years, provided the player has served the total years required, which is currently eight years.

‘‘We think this adds an element of fairness for those players who play at more than one club throughout their career, and are hopeful it receive the support of the AFL and clubs.’’

The players association and the AFL are negotiating a mid-term review of the CBA – in effect, it is an opportunity to recast the terms and conditions that were agreed upon, when the CBA was done before the 2012 season.

Much of the discussion involves equalisation measures – including the AFL’s wish for a ‘‘purer’’ salary cap. This would see the scrapping of the veteran’s allowance, which the AFL and some of the smaller clubs believe leads to inequities in player payments.

The players want the veteran’s rule to be retained.

This story AFL players push radical free agency plan first appeared on WA Today.