The 2018 “How Does All This Trade Nonsense Work?” Thread


We can trade our 2019 first round pick. The rule is explained in the following article:
Specifically this quote "The AFL this week confirmed to that unless a club has acquired two first-round picks between 2015-2018, it cannot trade away its first-round selection for 2019."

This is the third edition of the increasingly inaccurately named “Baby’s first trade and draft thread”. I’ve made it a new thread rather than update the existing one because there are a lot of now redundant replies and clarifications in the existing thread.

As always, questions or corrections welcome. There’s a lot copied and pasted from previous entries, so there’s potentially out of date things here and there.

Before We Begin
This is supposed to explain how the trade and draft period works, hopefully in a way that makes sense to newcomers but also clarifies weird details for non gadget-operator types who like to read the CBA in their spare time. Every year the rules get more complicated. The very basic description of the draft and trades doesn’t really help much because it just leaves even more questions. Hopefully this covers enough for the basics to make sense and answer most of the obvious “but what about…?” and “couldn’t we just…?” questions.

The Basics
The trade and draft period is the time for a couple of months after the Grand Final when teams can change their lists. The list is divided into three groups: the senior list, category A rookies, and category B rookies. There are 38-40 senior players, 0-6 category A rookies and 0-3 category B rookies. The total number of senior players plus category A rookies cannot exceed 44.

What’s a category A rookie?
When someone just says “rookie” they’re normally referring to category A rookies. Rookies are players taken in the rookie draft who take up a spot on the category A rookie list.

Yeah, but what is a rookie compared to a not-rookie?
Historically there used to be a bunch of differences about only being able to play when senior players were injured and so on, but those rules are all gone.

So what’s the point?
Mostly contracts. A player drafted onto the rookie list only has to be offered a one year contract. If they’re drafted onto the senior list they get a minimum 2 year contract with terms defined by the AFL CBA, although teams can offer more if they want to. Of course there are some exceptions, players over 23 and anybody who has been on an AFL list (senior or rookie) can be offered a 1 year contract.

What’s a category B rookie then?
Category B rookies are (mostly) people taken from non-football backgrounds. They’re only allowed to play AFL football if at least one senior listed player is out with a long term injury. There are some details around that eligibility, but this isn’t the place for it.

You said mostly non-football backgrounds.
There’s a special rule for academy players who aren’t picked in the National Draft that can end up with them on the B list.

Academy? National Draft?
We’ll get to it. Suffice to say, some normal footballers can go on the B list.

So who’s eligible for a category B spot?
The official rule is that they have to have gone at least three years without being registered in an Australian Football competition. This includes non-Irish international players (Mason Cox types), and players from different sports (Mark Blicavs and Luke Lavender types). There’s also an “Alternative Talent” rule for players from other elite competitions which basically existed for Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau, and doesn’t mean much any more.

Why only non-Irish international players?
Because there was some friction with the GAA about the AFL poaching talent, the rule is that only one Irish player per team can be on the rookie B list. Any subsequent Irish players count as regular rookies.

How long can a player be a rookie?
3 years. After that they either have to be elevated to the senior list or delisted. Once they’ve been delisted, there’s nothing stopping them from being re-drafted onto a rookie list again though.

Can you move players from the rookie list to the senior list?
Yes. At the end of the year, teams can inform the AFL that any number of their rookies are being elevated (the typical term used) to the senior list. There used to be all sorts of bureacracy around leaving spots open and announcing the elevation on draft night, etc. Now you just make sure there’s a spot free and tell the AFL.

Can you move players from the senior list to the rookie list?
Technically no. You have to delist them and then re-draft them in the rookie draft. While it’s possible that another team would come in and take them as a delisted free agent or draft them, this rarely (never?) happens, presumably because the kind of player being demoted to the rookie list is not the kind of player to attract much attention from other clubs. So technically no but in practice, yes and it’s quite common.

Can you trade rookies?
Yes, but they have to be traded onto the senior list of the new team.

Isn’t this supposed to be about trading and drafting?
It is, but you need to know about what we’re trading and drafting into. Now you know: the senior list and the two rookie lists.

Great, now can we talk about trading and drafting?
Not quite, we’re going to do a quick summary of the salary cap.

Surely that’s self explanatory?
Mostly. Every team has a maximum amount of money they’re allowed to pay their players. In 2019 that amount is $12,758,095. There is also a minimum amount clubs have to pay, 95%.

And that’s how much you can pay all the players on the list combined over the course of the year?
Nope. It doesn’t include a bunch of specific things (airfares, finals payments, relocation costs) but also importantly doesn’t include payments to category B rookies except for any senior games they play, or some (complicated) parts of category A rookie payments.

Category B rookies don’t count towards the cap?
Not if they don’t play AFL.

Surely everyone would have 3 category B rookies at all times then?
You’d think.

Anything else?
Of course there is, or I wouldn’t have made you ask that question. If a club spends less than the maximum amount, they can store that excess for up to two years and spend it in the subsequent year, to a maximum of 105% of the cap.

Glad we’re a big influential club so we can just give players some sponsorship deals and lord it over the tin rattlers.
Not a question, but also not true. The AFL looks at all sponsorship deals, and pretty much any that are with existing club sponsors or relate to club activities fall under the Additional Services Agreement, which is capped at $1,125,938 per team.

I’m going to lord it over tin rattlers anyway.

What’s the draft?
There are actually three drafts: the National Draft, the Rookie Draft, and the Pre-Season Draft (PSD). When someone says “the draft” they normally mean the National Draft.

Fine, what’s the “National Draft” then?
All the junior players and state league players who want to play in the AFL nominate themselves.

Who can nominate?
Anyone who turned at least 18 this year. You don’t need to be 18 at the time of the draft, you just have to turn 18 in the calendar year (eg Langford was born in December of his draft year). In addition, players from WA and SA need to have played a minimum number of games in the WAFL or SANFL, or junior equivalents. Once a player nominates, their nomination stays active for three years (unless they are drafted and subsequently delisted in that time).

Can delisted AFL players nominate?
Yes. A player who had an AFL contract for the current year which has expired may nominate for the National Draft and Rookie Draft, just the Pre-Season Draft, or all three. Where a player has been delisted, they’ll typically move via delisted free agency rather than the draft, but they can still nominate.

What is the rookie draft?
After the national draft where you can add players to the senior list, there’s the rookie draft where you can add players to the rookie list. It used to be held a few weeks after the national draft, then it was held the day after, now it’s held later on the same day.

Any special rules for this one?
Of course. In addition to the F/S rookie rules above, academy players who have been nominated by clubs and not taken in the national draft can be added to either the category A or category B rookie list. The AFL hasn’t explicitly said that this rule also applies to NGA’s but all appearances are that it does.

What is the PSD?
The pre-season draft or PSD, is a draft held after the national 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?
Search me.

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.

What’s the order?
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, Geelong lost (after finishing 8th) and so did Sydney (after finishing 6th), so Geelong get pick 11 and Sydney get pick 12. GWS will get a lower pick despite finishing 7th on the ladder because they won their final. Once they get to the premier at pick 18, it starts over.

And that’s the final draft order?
Not quite, there could be compensation picks assigned.

What’s a compensation pick?
When a team loses a free agent (more on that later) the AFL can assign them a compensation pick in the draft.

What pick do they get?
One of five bands: directly after the team’s 1st round pick, the end of the 1st round, directly after the team’s 2nd round pick, then end of the 2nd round, or directly after the team’s 3rd round pick.

They get a 3rd round pick even for a really bad player?
No, many free agents don’t get any compensation pick at all.

So what compensation pick do you get if you traded out your 1st round pick already?
The compensation pick is where your pick would have been. If Gold Coast get a 1st round compensation pick for Tom Lynch, it will be pick 3 regardless of whether Gold Coast trade out pick 2 at some stage.

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.

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.

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).

How many picks do we get?
During the trade period, every team technically has infinite picks in infinite rounds. On draft night, however, this gets limited to the number of available spots on the senior list. It’s a minor detail to do with academy and F/S bidding.

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. The AFL has got (a little) stricter in recent years on what constitutes developing talent, so they have to do at least some work with the academy players.

Don’t we have an academy?
We do. We, and all the other clubs, have what’s called a Next Generation Academy (NGA). It’s like a northern state academy except limited to multicultural and indigenous players. We have access to roughly the Calder Cannons area and the Tiwi Islands.

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.

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?
It’s the player’s choice whether they nominate F/S or academy. Bailey Scott had the choice of North via F/S or Gold Coast via academy this year and chose North.

So the F/S rule only applies to the national draft?
No. Once a team has nominated a F/S player, if nobody takes them in the national draft, the player can be automatically added to the team’s rookie list prior to the rookie draft occurring. Technically the player is drafted with the team’s last pick in the rookie draft, but this doesn’t mean anything.

What if the F/S player isn’t a junior?
Doesn’t matter. As long as they haven’t been on an AFL list, they’re still F/S eligible.

What’s the academy and F/S bidding process?
Every draft pick is assigned a points value (3000 for pick 1 down to 9 for pick 73, find the full list at 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.

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.

How long do they have to match an offer?
Three days.

If a club matches, can the other club just increase their offer?
No, it’s one offer from one club one time.

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. This rule is a bit loose in that (for example) we offered Alex Morgan a contract last year if he couldn’t find another club who was interested, North were, so we delisted him to make the move easier.

Wait, so someone could get a compensation pick for a player they delisted?
No. Only RFA and UFA get compensation picks.

Hear me out. What if we wanted a player who was under contract but the deal was hard to do, so their team ended the contract, thus making them a free agent and allowi…
No. It’s been suggested a couple of times (Ryder a few years ago, May this year). If you’re contracted, you’re contracted.

Apparently Dylan Shiel wants to leave the Giants, 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 Carlton offer pick 1 to the Giants but Shiel doesn’t want to go to the Blues, then the deal doesn’t happen.

He’s under contract, surely they don’t have to trade him?
They don’t have to. Gibbs wanted to leave Carlton, Ablett wanted to leave the Suns but they got held onto for another year. 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?
As mentioned above, 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 Jeff Bezos 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.

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.

Can you trade just picks?
Yup. No players have to be involved in a trade.

Can you trade rookie and PSD picks?
No. The rookie and PSD draft are strictly reverse ladder order, no trading allowed.

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 seems straightforward. Ish.
It seems that way. But! You can trade your future first and another future pick if you bring in a future pick from the same round or better from another team.

Basically at any point during the trade period you need to have a future first round pick or a future 2nd, 3rd (or another 2nd) and 4th (or another 3rd or 2nd). This rule was invented or clarified, depending on your biases, to help hawthorn trade in O’Meara. Now the AFL reluctantly accepts they have to apply it to everyone else too.

We took 1 first round pick in 2016 and didn’t take one last year. Does that mean if we trade our first round pick this year that we can’t also trade our 2019 1st round pick?
Good question. No. Although the rule is simple to say, what it means is a little complicated. You must use 2 first round picks in a 4 year period. If you don’t, the penalty is only that you can’t trade future first round picks, so the AFL don’t actually force you to follow rule. If we traded our 2018 and 2019 1st round picks the result would be that in 2019 we wouldn’t be able to trade our 2020 pick (1 in 2016, 0 in 2017-2019).

That seems… odd?
It’s a bit confusing, but look at it this way. Next year maybe we’ll get a 1st round free agent compensation pick, maybe we’ll trade out a player worth a 1st round pick, maybe we’ll have an academy or F/S player who attracts a 1st round bid. There are lots of ways we could end up with a 1st round pick next year which would allow us to meet the 2 in 4 criteria, so preventing the trade this year would be unnecessarily strict.

What’s up with priority picks?
It used to be that if you were really bad, the AFL would give you extra draft picks to help rebuild faster. This year instead two teams, Carlton and Gold Coast, will get to take several mature age players prior to the national draft.

When did this get decided?
A few weeks ago, and the fine details haven’t been finalised yet.

Who do they have access to?
Anybody who has previously nominated for the draft.

How many?
Carlton get two, Gold Coast get to pick three.

The logic is that more mature, experienced players will provide more immediate impact for clubs that are clearly struggling.

Ah, so they can’t trade them?
They absolutely can.

But only for players, surely?
No, they can trade them for picks if they want.

But wouldn’t directly contradict the reasoning for doing it in the first place?
Welcome to the AFL.

How long is the trade period?
Free agency starts October 5, regular trades October 8. Free agency finishes October 15, regular trades October 17.

And that’s it until the draft?
It used to be. Now teams can still exchange picks (but not players) until November 16, with the draft on November 22.

And then that’s it?
Still no. As of this year teams will be able to trade draft picks during the draft. This is only for draft picks, not players, and teams cannot trade players they have just picked.

Won’t that slow everything down?
Oh yes indeed. The draft used to be a single evening, now it’s round 1 on the Friday night, then the rest of the draft on Saturday morning.

But then that’s the end?
Nope. The AFL has just added two extra periods in which you can change your list. The first is from December to March (ie off-season), and allows teams to replace players who retire or suffer a long term injury during that period (ACLs and that kind of thing).

Who can they take?
Anyone who nominated for the draft or has previously been on an AFL list.

What’s the second period?
There’s now going to be a midseason draft (exact timing unknown) based on reverse ladder order which teams can use to fill long term injury or empty rookie spots.

Who can they take?
Anyone who nominated for the previous draft, or has previously been on an AFL list. Additionally those players must specifically nominate for the mid-season draft.

And they get a half year contract?
Yes, but the team who takes them gets the first shot at re-contracting them at the end of the year.

Won’t this be bad for state league teams?
I’m sure the AFL cares deeply.

So when does all this happen exactly?
Friday, 5 October: Restricted free agency offer and unrestricted free agency period starts.
Monday, 8 October 10am: NAB AFL Trade Period starts.
Friday, 12 October 5pm: Close of restricted free agency offer and unrestricted free agency period.
Monday, 15 October 2pm: AFL restricted free agency matching offer three-day period ends.
Wednesday, 17 October 8.30pm: NAB AFL Trade Period closes (for exchange of players).
Friday, 16 November 2pm: NAB AFL Trade Period closes (for exchange of selections only).

Thursday, 22 November 7pm – 9.30pm: NAB AFL Draft (Round One).
Friday, 23 November 10am – 1.30pm: NAB AFL Draft (Round Two onwards to conclusion).
Friday, 23 November 5pm: NAB AFL Pre-Season Draft and NAB AFL Rookie Draft.

The key dates for delisted free agents are as follows:
Wednesday, 31 October 2pm: List Lodgement (1)
Thursday, 1 November: AFL delisted player free agency period (1) starts
Thursday, 8 November: AFL delisted player free agency period (1) closes
Saturday, 10 November: AFL delisted player free agency period (2) starts
Friday, 16 November 5pm: AFL delisted player free agency period (2) closes
Friday, 23 November 1.30pm – 2.30pm: AFL delisted player free agency period (3)
Tuesday, 27 November 2pm: Final AFL club list lodgement

Why is there a one day gap between the first and second delisted free agency periods?
No idea.

Give me the good stuff, with numbered paragraphs
Here’s the 2017-2022 CBA
AFL rules 2018 (most recent one I can find easily). Rules of the league, not the game


Tldr how do we get Whitfield?

Chloroform and Face/Off technology.

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Updated the bit about F/S and academies. If a player is eligible for both, as with Bailey Scott this year, it’s the player’s choice.

Just adding this link as the reference on how the 2 in 4 for future picks actually works. God forbid the AFL publish their rules anywhere.

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Updated with the 2018 version of the rules PDF
And the most recent drafts points table

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Fantastic wrap up. Great effort and greatly appreciated!



Amazingly well put together

You made something incredibly boring light, easy reading and very interesting

Updated the top of the first post to include a note about our 2019 first round pick.

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I have read in places that compensation picks do not attract draft points.
I have also read that this was changed this year by the AFL and compensation picks do in fact attract draft points.

Which is it?

As far as I know any pick you have on draft night is used for those points, doesn’t matter where it came from. I think that under the old pre-draft bidding system priority picks didn’t count when figuring out your “next available pick” to match a bid but I don’t know for sure, and that system’s long gone either way.

I’ll update it if I can find anything concrete.

Update: In 2015, it looks like brisbane matched the bid for Hipwood in part with the compensation pick they got for Leuenberger. So compensation picks do count.

3 years is like a lifetime ago in AFL rules terms Splitty, … it could have changed a dozen times since then. :smirk:

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It’s hard to find examples because most of the academy players are going to clubs that until this year couldn’t have free agents.

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@SplitRound - with list lodgement 1 being on 31st October, does that we need to have made decisions on all of our uncontracted players (including rookies) by then? So either they’ve signed new contracts by then or been delisted?

I don’t think so. We re-signed Long in November last year, so it may just be that list lodgement 1 didn’t include him but list lodgement 2 (November 9 this year) did. The final date for delisted players to nominate for the draft is November 16, so it’s presumably before then.

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No. But you may limit your drafting/delisted free agent options if you delay delistings.

Maybe there’s meant to be a “lodge player list (2)” in between the two sets of delisted free agent stages? I seem to recall there were more than two lodging dates in previous years?

Ha. @SplitRound you’ve identified list lodgement day #2 exactly as I speculated but not included it in your original post.