Victorian AFL clubs are set to campaign against the ringfencing of talent in Sydney’s AFL academies.
New rules over the bidding system for academy stars has emerged as a key front in the AFL’s equalisation battle.
Pistols are drawn at 10 paces between the four “Northern Alliance” clubs north of the Murray and Victorian clubs over access to academy players, with Collingwood boss Eddie McGuire again in the centre of the fight.
A week after Brisbane chairman Bob Sharpless declared the northern clubs would fight for increased investment, McGuire argues the Victorian case against.
“There might have only been a couple of voices last week, I think you’ll hear a crescendo this week,” McGuire told Triple M radio, foreshadowing a meeting of Victorian AFL presidents to form a united front.
“It’s going to be happening, I can guarantee… it’s on,” he said.
Fuelled by a sense that Sydney is getting an easy run, powerhouse clubs Collingwood and Hawthorn have urged the AFL to adopt new rules around the draft.
They argue if AFL funds are being used to build academies and grow superstars in Sydney, they should be able to bid for them – and if not, clubs should be made to pay the going rate.
Draft prospect Isaac Heeney is a case-in-point.
The 18-year-old is rated as one of the best midfielders in this year’s draft pool and as a Sydney academy product, the Swans will be able to draft him with their first-round draft pick.
When he’s rated a top-five pick, is it fair Sydney can take him when they enter the draft later?
Not to southern clubs, and especially not when Swans are flying on top of the ladder with expensive recruit Lance Franklin in tow.
Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold said his club would pursue fairness in the draft.
“What we’ve pushed for and one of the principles agreed was an even playing field, an even draft and an even salary cap,” he told Channel Nine.
“We’ve got to get back to those principles.
“We’re supportive of a bidding system where they have to effectively pay a price for those academy kids.”
That could mean Sydney stumping up two picks for cordoned off stars-in-waiting, or allowing other clubs access to their home-grown talent.
But Sydney chief executive Andrew Ireland threatened to withdraw support for the academies should rules be changed.
“If they make it so onerous, then why would you bother continuing with the investment?” he told The Age.
Any Victorian grouping would have another purpose: lobbying the Victorian government for increased funding with a state election just four months away.
“The Victorian government contributes to the AFL less than any other state I think at the moment,” McGuire said.
“The economic impact of AFL football in this town blows every other form of entertainment out of the door. There’s a lot riding on football in our town, it’s the rhythm of the city.”