The AFL and the AFL’s Player Association have been butting heads over a long period of time to determine whether free agency will give players more job security, but more importantly, improve our game.
After a long, drawn-out process in which 38 deals were completed, personally I can see the benefits, but also believe there are negatives to be wary of.
Firstly, players should be able to have a certain amount of flexibility in their careers, and their livelihoods.
Most young men start their AFL careers as 18-year-olds and are asked to immediately be role models, potentially moving away from home and the stability of family to achieve this.
We have seen recently with players such as Josh Caddy that the attraction of playing footy in your home state can be extremely strong.
Previously, Chris Judd, Des Headland and Jeff White were others who returned home after stints interstate.
Within the dynamics of all footy clubs is a vast range of personalities, abilities and expectations.
I have seen players thrive under one coach and then have their careers ended abruptly by the incoming coach and his varying views.
In this situation, a player should have the freedom to continue his career and choose his club of choice.
There are not too many jobs outside elite sport where you are told where you will go for employment – and the old argument of “players get rewarded well for what they do” doesn’t hold up with me.
Players are so heavily scrutinised because their salaries are made public, and it should not be.
Also, there is the desire for success.
This year Jared Rivers has left Melbourne, I assume for a number of reasons, but mostly to be involved in a great club in Geelong aiming for success in 2013.
For Jared, with maybe three or four years left, it was non-negotiable that if he wanted to play finals again, he had to leave Melbourne.
There are no guarantees, but from the outside, it looks like a great move by Jared and Geelong.
Then there is the other side to the story.
I like loyalty in our great game; however, it is becoming a fading component by clubs and players alike.
I sit proud being a one-club player, even though a move to Essendon was close a couple of times, but there won’t be too many in years to come.
As a sports-mad fan, I watch and follow all sports and don’t want our game to become like the NRL or EPL, where players change clubs with their jocks.
There are restrictions in our free agency. I would make them even tougher.
Brendan Goddard, Sharrod Wellingham and Chris Dawes were all required players and playing senior footy, yet they found new homes as part of salary cap squeezes.
Geelong has shown what a great culture can do – players will play for less, just to be involved in what ended up being a dynasty.
It has also offered a lot less job security to fringe players than any prediction or research had shown.
For the elite players, the financial side of contracts won’t change too much and flexibility will be greater, but for the foot soldiers of the squad, nervous times await each year.
At Bendigo Gold, we will form a strong culture of belonging to our club and build a group of young men who are desperate for an opportunity higher, while making sacrifices to give themselves every chance.
We aim to be strong community partners and a pathway for footballers who want to achieve their dream.