When a player retires, they sign a waiver saying they cannot enter the draft and cannot be picked up as a delisted free agent.
Whilst a player can be delisted or retire at any stage during the season, the team still holds ownership of the players contract until October 31.
That’s why players who are delisted (Chapman in 2013, Gibson this year) can still be traded during trade period even after they have retired or been delisted.
The Hodge situation was not a ‘special case’. It is within the rules. Scott Lucas mentioned as much on SEN during trade week.
I recall the AFL ‘bent the rules’ for Sam Shaw and Joe Patful though. They both retired yet they mysteriously were allowed to be picked up in the rookie draft after retiring.
In Sam Shaw’s case, his contract was up so Adelaide took him in as a rookie so that they could monitor his concussion problems. Apparently a club doctor cannot look after a player at the expense of the club who isn’t on the team pay wages. Players have to use the special fund out in place by the Players Association and they have a select group of doctors to go to (this usually doesn’t include highly paid club doctors).
How Patful was allowed to be rookied after having a year still to go in his contract after retiring is still baffling. If ever there was a ‘special case’, that was it.