Lions, GWS object to Essendon hold on ex-champ’s son
By Jake Niall
March 28, 2019 — 8.04pm
The Brisbane Lions have highlighted Essendon’s capacity to recruit the son of triple premiership Lion Chris Johnson as an example of how the contentious Next Generation Academies need to be reformed.
The Lions have already told the AFL that Lachie Johnson - the son of ex-Lions great Chris Johnson - shouldn’t be eligible to join Essendon via the Dons’ NGA, and should only be eligible as a Lions father-son - a position that they will put on record to the AFL in the league’s ongoing review of the NGA and northern academies.
The Lions were backed in their objections by Greater Western Sydney’s chief executive David Matthews, who said the fact that young Johnson could be recruited by Essendon was “either an unintended consequence or complete rubbish.”
Brisbane chief executive Greg Swann highlighted Johnson - eligible to be a father-son for the Lions, but part of Essendon’s NGA due to his Indigenous heritage - as an example of a player who wasn’t being brought from outside the game, which was the supposed intention of the academies.
“Our understanding of the NGAs are that they are to bring people into the system who are foreign to the game. We don’t think this fits that,” he said.
The Lions have highlighted the example of Johnson as a matter of principle, rather than because he is viewed as a prized recruit in the manner of Marc Murphy, who was eligible to be a father-son but went at pick No.1 to Carlton instead so he could stay in Melbourne.
Johnson has done comparatively little to date in the under 18s and it is unclear where he sits as a draft prospect.
He’s playing for Oakleigh Chargers and for his school Scotch College, having been assigned to the Bombers when he lived in the Calder Cannons zone. But the Lions know that he is more likely to choose Essendon and stay in Melbourne if he is good enough to play AFL.
Matthews called for the AFL to “change the eligibility criteria” for NGA, which he said had given Collingwood “a free hit with Isaac Quaynor” who was drafted as an academy recruit last November.
The Magpies were able to trade their first draft pick last year and still land Quaynor with later choices via the points system, which is also under review.
To qualify for NGA - confined to the 14 “southern clubs” - a player must be born or have one parent born in Africa or Asia, have both parents from a non-English-speaking country or have Indigenous or multicultural heritage.
Quaynor qualified due to having an African-born parent, despite having played in elite junior squads, while North Melbourne gained Tarryn Thomas, a highly-rated Tasmanian who likewise had been rated among the top prospects for years, due to Indigenous background.
North also tradec their first draft pick and still gained Thomas with a bid, as did the Swans with Nick Blakey, who was part of their academy for local players.
The AFL has ex-Carlton football operations boss and captain Andrew McKay reviewing the NGA and northern club academies, with the NGA expected to be revamped and criteria for players tightened.
The objections of the northern state teams to the NGA academies is a reversal of what took place with the arrival of northern academies, when strong Melbourne clubs, led by Collingwood, fought against and succeeded in persuading the AFL to remove Albury from the GWS academy zone.
Matthews said there had been “hysteria over Albury” and that GWS, unlike Melbourne clubs, did not have access to father-sons. The NGA were introduced partly as a compensation for the northern club academies.
I agree with them. It seems ridiculous that we could recruit Chris Johnson’s son that way. (or that we could recruit Ben McNeice the way we did either.)