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THE BREATH OF LIFE - DRAFT ASSISTANCE by Whispering Jack

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How poorly does a team have to perform before it qualifies for draft assistance under the current AFL rules?

Nobody really knows the answer because the outcome of an application is based on vague guidelines. The AFL Commission is due to draw on these when it determines Melbourne's latest such application at its forthcoming meeting next week.

We do know that an application by the club was rejected last year after a number of clubs objected, mainly on the basis of how could the AFL allow such a thing so soon after the so-called "tanking" enquiry (so much for the independence of the AFL Commission)?

We shouldn't forget that the two clubs who raged loudest against Melbourne last year were Hawthorn and Collingwood whose presidents joined then AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou on a trip to the United States to study issues surrounding "equalisation" of sporting competitions. Talk about Dracula running the blood bank - the first thing Andrew Newbold and Eddie McGuire did when they stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac at Tullamarine was to complain loud and hard about giving any AFL draft assistance to a team that won only two games in season 2013 and four in the year before.

Never mind that their own clubs gratefully accepted priority picks less than a decade earlier which helped land both of them premierships. The Hawks won four games in 2004 and, as a result picked up Jarryd Roughhead at selection 2 (with Buddy Franklin at 4) in that year's national draft while the Magpies snuck in with five wins in 2005. Their priority pick at 2 was Dale Thomas (they got Scott Pendelbury at 5) and nobody made too much noise about the fact that they somehow managed to lose the last eight matches of the season to get their prize. Carlton managed even better when they snared the priority pick three years in a row culminating with the Kreuzer Cup of 2007, completing the "grand slam of tanking" after they lost eleven in a row to finish the season. Yet, Demetriou continued to publicly maintain that there was no such thing as tanking in the AFL.

The rules have changed and clubs now need to plead a special case to obtain draft assistance. Melbourne's plight over the best part of an entire decade is well known. The events that led to the "tanking" affair took place in 2009 and the club is under new management making early inroads into its precarious on field situation. To raise that issue again as a bar to assistance five years later would be unconscionable. How many times can a club be punished for doing the same thing, especially after the stronger, more established AFL clubs got away with little more than a cursory look?

No, if the AFL is to act responsibly in dealing with Melbourne's application, it must do so on its merits and not pre judge it as Football Operations Manager Mark Evans did recently when he cast doubt the application's chances of succeeding.

So while a mere four or five wins was no long ago considered enough to merit a priority pick for the likes of Evans' most recent club Hawthorn, Collingwood and on multiple occasions Carlton, Melbourne has to go begging to the AFL after nine losing seasons and on ten wins in the last three years or an average over that time of just 3⅓ wins per season. The thought is a vulgar to me as the fraction at the end of that number.

Melbourne is a club that had no nominees for the 2014 Rising Star, no players in the recently announced AFL Under 22 team, no players on the forty man All-Australian shortlist and not surprisingly, received no mentions at last week's MVP. Melbourne has been one of the hardest hit clubs in terms of recent AFL innovations including the rules relating to the introduction of the new franchise clubs and free agency. Tom Scully was taken when barely out of his teens for compensation that is barely kicking in four years later. The club has lost Jared Rivers, Brent Moloney, Colin Sylvia and most likely now, James Frawley to free agency. Again, it will take time to determine whether the compensation for their loss turns out to be fair and equitable.

On top of that, the Demons have been struck blows from unforeseen places to players who under normal circumstances would be close to marquee items, helping to win games and draw crowds to its fixtures. I refer here to Mitch Clark, Liam Jurrah and Austin Wonaeamirri who, but for their extraordinary, sad and well documented circumstances, would be leading a formidable Melbourne forward line capable helping the club to kick winning scores instead of the lows to which we have become accustomed of late.

And you can't blame poor administration or coaching on these things. Last year, one of the reasons given for not awarding draft assistance was that the club had the likes of Jesse Hogan in the wings and Clark returning from injury. Look how that turned out!

If the AFL is at all serious, it will realise that the Melbourne Football Club is crying out for help and that it must endorse its claim for assistance by giving it an early first round priority pick commensurate to that which was given to Hawthorn, Collingwood and Carlton and the incredible concessions given to the new franchise clubs in the recent past. Such a boost will help the club's efforts to rise beyond just being competitive and save it from the cruel death meted out to the Fitzroy Football Club two decades ago.

If the AFL values its integrity, it will deal out a fair and just result to Melbourne's application for draft assistance to give it the breath of life it so sorely needs.

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How poorly does a team have to perform before it qualifies for draft assistance under the current AFL rules?

Nobody really knows the answer because the outcome of an application is based on vague guidelines. The AFL Commission is due to draw on these when it determines Melbourne's latest such application at its forthcoming meeting next week.

We do know that an application by the club was rejected last year after a number of clubs objected, mainly on the basis of how could the AFL allow such a thing so soon after the so-called "tanking" enquiry (so much for the independence of the AFL Commission)?

We shouldn't forget that the two clubs who raged loudest against Melbourne last year were Hawthorn and Collingwood whose presidents joined then AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou on a trip to the United States to study issues surrounding "equalisation" of sporting competitions. Talk about Dracula running the blood bank - the first thing Andrew Newbold and Eddie McGuire did when they stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac at Tullamarine was to complain loud and hard about giving any AFL draft assistance to a team that won only two games in season 2013 and four in the year before.

Never mind that their own clubs gratefully accepted priority picks less than a decade earlier which helped land both of them premierships. The Hawks won four games in 2004 and, as a result picked up Jarryd Roughhead at selection 2 (with Buddy Franklin at 4) in that year's national draft while the Magpies snuck in with five wins in 2005. Their priority pick at 2 was Dale Thomas (they got Scott Pendelbury at 5) and nobody made too much noise about the fact that they somehow managed to lose the last eight matches of the season to get their prize. Carlton managed even better when they snared the priority pick three years in a row culminating with the Kreuzer Cup of 2007, completing the "grand slam of tanking" after they lost eleven in a row to finish the season. Yet, Demetriou continued to publicly maintain that there was no such thing as tanking in the AFL.

The rules have changed and clubs now need to plead a special case to obtain draft assistance. Melbourne's plight over the best part of an entire decade is well known. The events that led to the "tanking" affair took place in 2009 and the club is under new management making early inroads into its precarious on field situation. To raise that issue again as a bar to assistance five years later would be unconscionable. How many times can a club be punished for doing the same thing, especially after the stronger, more established AFL clubs got away with little more than a cursory look?

No, if the AFL is to act responsibly in dealing with Melbourne's application, it must do so on its merits and not pre judge it as Football Operations Manager Mark Evans did recently when he cast doubt the application's chances of succeeding.

So while a mere four or five wins was no long ago considered enough to merit a priority pick for the likes of Evans' most recent club Hawthorn, Collingwood and on multiple occasions Carlton, Melbourne has to go begging to the AFL after nine losing seasons and on ten wins in the last three years or an average over that time of just 3⅓ wins per season. The thought is a vulgar to me as the fraction at the end of that number.

Melbourne is a club that had no nominees for the 2014 Rising Star, no players in the recently announced AFL Under 22 team, no players on the forty man All-Australian shortlist and not surprisingly, received no mentions at last week's MVP. Melbourne has been one of the hardest hit clubs in terms of recent AFL innovations including the rules relating to the introduction of the new franchise clubs and free agency. Tom Scully was taken when barely out of his teens for compensation that is barely kicking in four years later. The club has lost Jared Rivers, Brent Moloney, Colin Sylvia and most likely now, James Frawley to free agency. Again, it will take time to determine whether the compensation for their loss turns out to be fair and equitable.

On top of that, the Demons have been struck blows from unforeseen places to players who under normal circumstances would be close to marquee items, helping to win games and draw crowds to its fixtures. I refer here to Mitch Clark, Liam Jurrah and Austin Wonaeamirri who, but for their extraordinary, sad and well documented circumstances, would be leading a formidable Melbourne forward line capable helping the club to kick winning scores instead of the lows to which we have become accustomed of late.

And you can't blame poor administration or coaching on these things. Last year, one of the reasons given for not awarding draft assistance was that the club had the likes of Jesse Hogan in the wings and Clark returning from injury. Look how that turned out!

If the AFL is at all serious, it will realise that the Melbourne Football Club is crying out for help and that it must endorse its claim for assistance by giving it an early first round priority pick commensurate to that which was given to Hawthorn, Collingwood and Carlton and the incredible concessions given to the new franchise clubs in the recent past. Such a boost will help the club's efforts to rise beyond just being competitive and save it from the cruel death meted out to the Fitzroy Football Club two decades ago.

If the AFL values its integrity, it will deal out a fair and just result to Melbourne's application for draft assistance to give it the breath of life it so sorely needs.

Well said, send it on to Evans.

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Yes the case in support of a priority pick is clear and your summary is excellent.

The time for the AFL to act is now.

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Hey Whispering

That is a superb little piece of writing.

Hope it makes its way to The Powers.

Do hate hearing moronic commentators saying, yet again, "oh, them, they tanked, they don't deserve a draft pick." How the hell long is the punishment meant to last?

Cheers.

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