AFL
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'It's like bloody Play School': Suns' list boss blasts go-home factor

AFL

Veteran Gold Coast list manager Scott Clayton has slammed the growing trend of young players returning to their home state a year or two after being drafted.

Clayton, one of the AFL's most experienced recruiters after more than 25 years in the caper, told ESPN the 'go-home' factor was the worst it had ever been in the sport, and remained one of the serious blots on the AFL landscape.

"Here is a world-class professional sport that is so sophisticated in so many ways and yet you have this ridiculous 'go-home' factor which is tolerated," a fired-up Clayton told ESPN.

"It just wouldn't happen in UK or U.S. sport, or the top European soccer leagues.

"To think that an American college basketballer, for example, would say to NBA recruiters: 'I'm only going to play for a California team, I'm not interested in going anywhere else' - [it] is a nonsense. It wouldn't happen.

"Yet in the AFL, so sophisticated in so many other ways, the 'go-home' factor is accepted.

"Every year, we at Gold Coast speak to would-be draftees and they say to us: 'You can draft me but I'll be coming back (to their home state) after two years'.

"It's like bloody Play School, it's so child-like that these young men who want to be part of a national competition can dictate the state they play in."

The former Fitzroy player, 57, has been a recruiting manager for four AFL clubs, three of them non-Victorian - the Brisbane Bears, Brisbane Lions, Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast - so is well placed to comment on an issue which has long been a bugbear for every interstate club.

He said an added complication for non-Victorian clubs was the appeal of Melbourne as football's heartland.

"I draw the analogy of an actor who says: 'If I'm going to star in movies, I'm going to live in Hollywood - not Pittsburgh'," Clayton told ESPN.

"The same with football. These young men are saying: 'If I'm going to make it big in football, I want to live in Melbourne because that's where the action is."

This month's AFL trade period saw 12 players request moves because they wanted to return to their home state.

Adelaide's Jake Lever upset his club by demanding a move to Melbourne, while Gary Ablett (Gold Coast to Geelong), Josh Schache (Brisbane to Western Bulldogs), Lachie Weller (Fremantle to Gold Coast), Adam Saad (Gold Coast to Essendon) and Bryce Gibbs (Carlton to Adelaide) were other high-profile shifts.

While the Suns have lost many players in recent times to the go-home factor - including Ablett, Saad and Dion Prestia - they enjoyed the rare experience last month of having Weller request to leave Fremantle and head home to the Gold Coast. The Suns had to part with pick No.2 in the draft to get the Weller deal done, but it represented at last a slight shift of the go-home balance their way.

Clayton and his team of recruiters at Gold Coast perform psychological profiling of all their potential draftees and look out for resilience, the love of a challenge and buying into a new culture as three key attributes in any young player.

But he said the AFL could help interstate clubs deal with homesick players by introducing a three-year CBA contract for rookie draftees.

"That's the single biggest thing that the AFL and AFLPA could do for the interstate clubs," Clayton said.

The AFL national draft will be held in Sydney on November 24.

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