Updating this for 2017. There are some things that haven’t been finalised in the new CBA, and what has been finalised isn’t available outside of summary articles, so some information may turn out to be changed.
If you see any mistakes or want any extra questions, please let me know.
How are draft picks assigned?
Draft picks are assigned in reverse ladder order. For teams that finish outside the finals it’s easy. 18th gets pick 1, 17th gets pick 2, etc to 9th getting pick 10. For finals teams, each week of the finals, the teams that lose get assigned draft picks based on ladder position. For example in week one, we lost (after finishing 7th) and so did Port (after finishing 5th), so we get pick 11 and Port get pick 12. West Coast will get a lower pick despite finishing 8th on the ladder because they won their final. Once they get to the premier at pick 18, it starts over.
Did you have to mention that final?
And that’s it? That’s the final draft order?
Not quite. There could be priority picks assigned.
What’s a priority pick?
After all the draft picks are assigned, some teams may also be assigned extra “priority” picks.
How do you get a priority pick?
In the past, they were assigned using a pretty straightforward formula based on number of wins. Now teams can apply for a priority pick during the year, the AFL considers request, and either denies the claim or assigns priority pick(s). Brisbane got a priority pick last year at the end of the first round.
What picks can get assigned?
Absolutely anything. In the days of the formula priority picks occurred either before the first round or after the first round. Since then, compensation picks (which are different) have been handed out immediately after 1st, 2nd or 3rd round assigned picks, at the end of the 1st or 2nd round, and in the middle of the 1st round. The AFL could choose to assign according to any of these precedents, or they could arbitrarily assign a priority pick at pick 17 just because it’s their favourite number.
Will anyone get one this year?
Hard to say. Brisbane have applied again, and may well get it again, because they’re still terrible. Who knows?
Wasn’t there a draft thing with GWS?
Yes. GWS had their first pick reduced in value by 1000 points due to the whole Lachie Whitfield situation, so they won’t get a first round pick.
Points? Isn’t it picks?
Every pick in the draft is also assigned a points value which is used to deal with Academy and Father Son bids (we’ll get to that later). Pick 1 is 3000 points down to pick 73 which is worth 9 points. So GWS’ first pick will have 1000 points substracted from its value and moved back in the draft accordingly.
I thought this was a simple guide.
Simplicity is not the AFL’s strong suit.
How many picks do we get?
Prior to trade week, every team gets assigned infinite draft picks. So we’ll have roughly pick 11, 28, 46, 65, 83, 101, 119, 137, 155 and so on. On draft night itself, each team is given one pick for each empty spot on their list. So if we have 2 retirements, 4 delistings, and trade in 1 player, we’d have 5 empty spots on the list and get pick 11, 28, 46, 65, 83.
How many picks do we have to take in the draft?
The AFL requires that every team take at least three picks in the national draft. There is of course a complication, which is that any rookies being elevated to the senior list count for this. So you could draft 2 players and elevate one rookie, as we did in 2013 (drafted Zach Merrett and Fantasia, elevated Dalgleish).
What’s elevating a rookie?
In addition to the 40 spots on the main list, there are also 4 spots on the rookie list, and 3 spots on the category B rookie list. Elevating a rookie is taking a player on the rookie list or category B rookie list and putting them on the main list.
How many rookies can we have?
4. Well, 6. Actually 9. The maximum list size is 44 players. 38-40 of these can be main list spots, which means 4-6 can be rookie spots. Then you can have up to 3 category B rookies.
Why would you have 6 rookies, surely you want as many on the main list as possible?
Players taken in the national draft have to be given 2 year contracts, whereas rookies only get 1 year contracts.
And also rookies can’t play at AFL level, right?
That used to be the case, but not any more. As of next year, players on the rookie list (but not the category B rookie list) will be eligible to player senior football at any time.
So any player we take in the national draft gets a 2 year contract?
Almost. Players over 23 and anybody who has been on an AFL list (senior or rookie) can be offered a 1 year contract. Otherwise they get a minimum 2 year contract with terms defined by the AFL CBA, although teams can offer more if they want to.
Do we need to keep a pick in the draft to elevate a rookie?
To elevate a rookie, you just tell the AFL you’re doing it. There’s no longer any requirement to read them out on draft night as an ersatz draft pick. As noted above, they still count as a draft pick for the purposes of the three minimum rule.
How long can a player be on the rookie list?
Three years. After that you either have to promote them to the main list or delist them. At that point they can re-nominate for the draft, and you can re-rookie them if you want.
Can you demote players from the main list to the rookie list?
Sort of. Officially, a player cannot be moved from the main list to the rookie list. Instead they have to be delisted, nominate for the drafts, then get re-drafted by their club. This happens quite often and although another club could swoop in and pick the player before their current club, in practice clubs tend to let these de facto demotions happen (presumably because the kind of players being moved to the rookie list are not in high demand).
Can you trade rookies?
Yes, but they have to be traded onto to main list of the destination club.
We elevated Long off the rookie list this year, so is he on the main list now?
No. For the purposes of list management, rookies elevated to the main list during the year remain on the rookie list. Clubs are not obliged to permanently elevate rookies who have come onto the main list during the course of the year.
What’s a category B rookie?
A category B rookie was originally anybody who doesn’t play football, and hasn’t for the last two years. This covers Americans, steeplechasers, basketballers, and due to a spat with the GAA a maximum of one Irish player (a team can have multiple Irish recruits, but only one can be on the category B list). Last year it also included Next Generation Academy (NGA) multicultural and indigenous players. You can sign category B rookies whenever you want. You can have up to 3 category B rookies at any time, and their base wage is outside the salary cap.
If that’s the case why doesn’t every club that can afford it always have 3 category B rookies?
What are the academies?
Basically Brisbane, GC, GWS, and Sydney get priority access to players from QLD and NSW that they’ve identified and developed. Quite what identified and developed means is up for debate, and so far it’s basically turned the traditional football area of the Riverina into a GWS party zone.
Do academy players have to go to their academy teams?
Academy teams may choose not to match a bid for an academy player, but an academy player cannot choose to make themselves unavailable as an academy pick. This is different to father/son eligible players who may choose not to make themselves available to the club(s) their father played at.
Father/son eligible players?
Any player whose father player at least 100 games for an AFL club (or more complicated rules for SA and WA teams to take into account the pre-AFL era) is eligible to be taken as a father son pick. For this to happen, the player has to agree to making themselves available as a father/son pick (Marc Murphy was F/S eligible for the Lions, but chose not to make himself available), and the club has to then nominate them prior to the draft.
Why does the club have to nominate them?
Before the current bidding system, F/S was resolved before the draft. Now, it serves no real purpose.
What if their father played 100 games for multiple clubs?
Then the player can declare himself eligible for both, one, or none. If he picks both then he also has to say which team has priority when matching bids. This happened to Bailey Rice last year, and he chose to only declare himself eligible for St Kilda.
What happens if a player is eligible for both F/S and an academy?
This is going to happen with John Longmire’s son, and as far as I can tell, the AFL has not yet ruled on which rule has priority. If I had to guess I’d say say they’ll rule in favour of F/S having precedence over academy membership.
So the F/S rule only applies to the national draft?
No. A team can nominate a player as a F/S rookie choice, and if nobody selects them in the main draft, then they can be automatically added to the rookie list (technically done with the team’s last rookie draft selection).
Why does a team have to specifically nominate them as a F/S rookie selection?
Because the AFL like making things needlessly complicated.
How does the academy bidding system work?
Every draft pick is assigned a points value (3000 for pick 1 down to 9 for pick 73, find the full list at http://www.afl.com.au/staticfile/AFL%20Tenant/AFL/Files/biddingsystemfeedback.pdf). On draft night, a team may call out the name of a F/S or academy player with their pick. The team with academy rights can choose to match the pick. To do this they must give up picks, starting with their next available pick, worth a total of 80% of the points value of the nominated pick. The picks they use to match in this way are then pushed to the back of the draft. There are rules about what happens to the left over points of partially used picks, but the AFL hasn’t publicly released those rules, and the document in the link above doesn’t make them explicit.
So they have to start matching with their next available pick?
What if a team that bids then immediately bids on another player?
That’s fine. If a team with say pick 6 bids on an academy player and it’s matched, that will be recorded as pick 6 being that player taken by the academy team. The team that bid now has pick 7 and can bid again.
Doesn’t that mean if an academy team has a bunch of good players, they pay less and less for them?
Yes. Funny how that works out.
So an academy club might just get all the best players in the draft?
Not quite. As of this year, academy teams are limited in how many top 20 bids they can match. If they finish top 4 it’s 1 match, finals is 2 matches, outside the top 8 is any number of matches. So this year Brisbane or Gold Coast could match as many as they can afford, Sydney and GWS would be limited.
What if the academy team doesn’t have enough points?
They can go into debt for the next year. To a maximum of 1726 points.
Why 1726 points?
Because when you add up the points that the premiers get for their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick it comes to 1726. This means a team can’t go into more points debt than they’ll have available the next year.
Wouldn’t it make sense for an academy team to trade high picks for lower picks worth more points?
Yes, the system above means that it makes sense in a lot of situations for an academy team to trade out high picks for multiple later picks that add up to more points.
Isn’t that easy to exploit?
Yes, but the northern clubs getting an unfair advantage isn’t exactly agains the AFL’s aims. The AFL has said that where a trade was done solely of picks for picks, the points values for both sides had to be roughly equal, while never properly clarifying how big the discrepancy could be.
You said something about Next Generation Academies earlier?
Every other club now has a thing called the Next Generation Academy, which is a development pathway for multicultural and indigenous players. Each team has a geographical area assigned to them to identify and develop young players.
We’d better have the Tiwi Islands
And it’s like the other Academies for bidding?
That’s not locked in yet. Last year there was a special category B rule, this year it’s not been announced yet, but the general idea is that from next year on, it will be like the academies.
What counts as multicultural?
The player or at least one parent was born in an Asian or African country. Otherwise, the player or both parents were born in a non-English speaking country.
What countries count as Asia and Africa?
What countries count as non-English speaking?
What counts as indigenous?
The AFL hasn’t said, and I don’t think they’re going to get involved in that particular debate if they can possibly avoid it.
What happens if we identify a kid from the Tiwi and bring them down to Melbourne to go to boarding school or something?
Unknown. I wouldn’t bet my house on being allowed to keep exclusive access, because that’s the AFL style.
What’s a restricted free agent?
Someone who has played at least 8 years at their current club, is out of contract, and is in the top 25% earners at the club in the current year. An RFA can accept one offer from an opposition club. If their current club refuses to match the offer, then the player can move without a trade happening. If the current team matches the offer, then the player can either stay with the new contract, or ask for a trade like any uncontracted player.
What’s an unrestricted free agent?
Someone who has played at least 8 years at their current club, is out of contract, and isn’t in the top 25% earners at the club. Alternatively, if he’s played at least 10 years at his current club and is out of contract regardless of pay. Unrestricted free agents can accept offers from any club, and there’s nothing their current team can do about it.
And delisted free agents?
Any player who doesn’t have a contract because their current club has refused to offer one. A player who refuses to sign an offered contract cannot become a delisted free agent.
What’s the deal with free agent compensation?
Only RFA and UFA attract compensation picks, and even then not always. Firstly, the player has to be good enough to warrant a compensation pick. Secondly, compensation is dependent both on outgoing and incoming free agents, so if a team loses a good player but brings in a good player they probably won’t get a compensation pick.
Can you get multiple compensation picks?
Yes. The AFL handed out two compensation picks to Port Adelaide and Melbourne in the first year of free agency. How this would work if a team lost multiple free agents but brought one in remains to be seen.
So how do they figure it out?
The formula used to calculate compensation is basically witchcraft that the AFL refuses to make public, so compensation is whatever they say it is. If you were cynical you might say there’s not actually a formula at all and the AFL makes it up as they go along.
What compensation picks can you get?
1st round immediately after your assigned pick (regardless of whether you’ve traded it away or used it to match an academy bid or whatever else), end of 1st round, 2nd round immediately after your assigned pick, end of 2nd round, 3rd round immediately after your assigned pick. Where two or more teams are assigned end of round compensation picks, priority is based on reverse ladder order.
Apparently Stringer wants to leave the Dogs, will they just trade him to whoever offers the best deal?
Trades in the AFL require all three involved parties to agree to the deal, ie the old club, the new club, and the player. If Brisbane offer pick 1 to the Dogs but Stringer doesn’t want to go to the Lions, then the deal doesn’t happen.
Why wouldn’t he nominate a bunch of clubs to get a better deal for the Dogs?
Because presumably one club will offer a better contract than the others, and in that case presumably he’ll insist on going to that club.
He’s under contract, surely they don’t have to trade him?
They don’t have to. Gibbs wanted to leave Carlton last year, Ablett wanted to leave the Suns. Generally players who want to leave do, but it’s not a guarantee.
Why don’t we raid these poor clubs for their players, we have more money than them
Because there’s a salary cap, and the AFL ensures every club has enough money to pay the salary cap. Rich club, poor club, everyone has the same ability to pay players. It wouldn’t matter if Warren Buffett gave Essendon all of his money, we still wouldn’t be in a better financial position than the Bulldogs or St Kilda as far as ability to provide lucrative contracts.
Can AFL players nominate for the draft if a trade fails?
If they’re not contracted, yes. A player who had an AFL contract for the current year which has expired may nominate for the National Draft and Rookie Draft, the Pre-Season Draft, or all three.
How much do they get paid if they get drafted?
Unlike non-AFL players, an AFL player may set minimum contract conditions in terms of duration and value, and any team that drafts them must match these conditions (total years and dollars only, not year to year specifics). This used to only apply to the PSD, but has also applied to the ND since 2009.
What is the PSD?
The Pre-season draft or PSD, is a draft held after the national draft (which is what people normally mean when they just say “the draft”). Anyone who nominated for the ND is eligible for the PSD, as are any uncontracted AFL players who nominated only for the PSD. The PSD is available to any club which has available main list spots upon the completion of the ND, and works in reverse ladder order the same as the national draft.
What’s the point of the PSD?
It used to happen at a different time and was a fallback for various contract expiry dates and other stuff that no longer applies, especially since the advent of free agency.
Why still have it?
What is “walking to the PSD”?
If your team finished bottom of the ladder and is trying to trade in an uncontracted player, the player can threaten to nominate for the PSD rather than go through the normal trade procedure (as per the normal uncontracted AFL player rules). In this case the player’s current club can be pressured into taking a lesser deal because the other option is to get nothing. Players very rarely actually follow through on the threat, but it seems to be effective in getting a better deal for the club they want to go to.
Can you trade future picks?
Yes. You can trade picks from next year’s draft. If you trade your future first round pick, you can’t trade any of your other future picks. You can trade as many future picks you’ve received from other clubs as you like. Additionally you have to take at least two first round picks every four years.
That means Geelong can’t trade future first round picks this year then?
They can. The first four year period doesn’t kick in until 2019. Also the AFL have announced that any and all of the future trading rules can be waived if clubs apply for an exemption and the AFL approves it.
So there aren’t really any proper rules?
No. Of course not.
What is WSPHU?
Stands for “We Should Pick Him Up”. Often spawns similar initialisms like WSNPHU etc.
I’m not a baby, give me the real stuff
If you insist.
AFL rules (not the laws of the game, the rules of the league):
AFL Players CBA (valid until the end of 2016):