Tradition versus evolution.
Want versus need.
That's essentially the argument regarding the introduction of mid-season list manipulation. Mid-season trading is the most talked about option currently but there are at least a couple of other list management options we should focus on.
Tradition is important, but take the centre bounce for example. Is tradition more important than what is best for the game? Not a chance. So the answer to a question like, 'should the centre bounce be removed?' is simply whatever is best for the game. Forget about tradition and forget largely about the concerns the umpires have about the physical requirements of bouncing. IF it's best for the game to keep it, then keep it. IF not, then sayonara bounce.
It's pretty simple.
The same goes for list alterations throughout a season: do what's best for the game.
We always hear people saying 'why can't we leave the game alone?' but that's one of the more ill-informed points of view I can think of. Shall we just leave the game alone forever? Never looking for opportunities to improve and evolve the sport? Should we even have games on television? Or delay the telecast until 8:30pm like we did throughout the 1990s and early 2000s?
Evolution is a vital aspect for an industry to not only survive but to prosper.
The views of the entirety should always be taken into account. The fans fund and drive the game, the coaches shape the look of the game, the media shape opinions but the most important view is that of the players. Call me biased, sure, but the players are the boots on the ground. They experience the way the game is played in real time and there are a large amount of players who do have the game's best interests at heart.
There's an excellent spread of knowledge and vision on the AFLPA board for example with players like Western Bulldogs premiership captain Easton Wood, AFLW pioneer Daisy Pearce, Brownlow medallist and AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield plus GWS captain Phil Davis and All-Australian trio Rory Sloane, Scott Pendlebury and Sam Docherty.
There's an excellent place to start. Legends from yesteryear still play an important role in connecting the game's history with today's footy but the game is so different now that many of the views from 1980's and early 1990's are basically null and void.
Across the Pacific Ocean, player movement is at an-time high but there are a number of factors that ensure those transactions are easier for both player and team. Across the NBA, NFL and NHL, players are being paid millions and millions of dollars, ensuring relocation is far easier.
But here are some things to think about.
We are not the NBA or NFL, so moving a player with a contract that expires a few months later is something you'd be desperate to avoid. We're paid well but not well enough to be uprooting our lives and relocating for a few months at a time.
Any mid-season trade involving a player with an expiring contract should either not be traded unless given at least a one-year extension on their current deal. Clubs are progressively becoming more aggressive with trades and moving players, so as players potentially have less say in their future, perhaps some added job security would be a welcome addition.
But I believe mid-season trades would be rarer than a Tasmanian tiger. I would be staggered to see more than two in any trade window. Sure, there would be some teams desperate to add a ruckman or needing to solidify a key position moving toward finals but it takes two to tango. Finding a suitor and a fair deal would be agonisingly difficult for list managers and decision makers.
In the NBA, expiring contracts are like gold. Acquiring a player whose contract is about to expire at season's end means you lose that player but gain a whole heap of salary cap room. With a roster of 44 players and rules in place that prevent accumulating large chunks of salary cap space, the AFL system is not equipped or designed for significant player movement. We are certainly seeing an increase in trading at season's end but even if it were to be brought in, do not expect to see any more than one or two mid-season trades.
Even teams who believe they're in the hunt for a flag would struggle to make moves purely because finding a suitor would be difficult.
Trades will be few and far between but how about adding to your list from the state leagues? More opportunity for aspiring AFL players is a good thing - no one will dispute that. So as clubs lose players for the remainder of the season to injury, adding a dominant state league player would be fantastic for everyone - except the club that loses its star player.
Likewise, however, players may be hesitant to make an interstate move for three or four months so any club looking to add a player should be required to give them a full-season guarantee once the initial year is completed.
Reason being, you're not putting a horse on a truck and sending it to a new trainer - players have partners, children, homes, families and connections to their current environments. Sure, a 19-year-old who missed out in the draft might jump on a plane and join a team for a few months but expecting that same thing of a 25-year-old with a wife, a baby and a good job is something else completely.
I'm all for opportunity - I would not be where I am without the rookie list and trade period but I received a full season to showcase my abilities. I can almost guarantee I would not have done enough in half a season to earn a shot at a longer career.
On face value, this aspect seems incredibly cold and harsh but I'm again looking at it from a player's perspective. It would take incredibly mature conversations for it to happen but I am certain clubs make calls on players' futures at least midway through a season.
Why not allow that player to step away from the game a few months earlier than his contract expires to give him time to explore the next phase of his life whilst still earning a pay cheque. Currently, players are de-listed sometime throughout September or even October and the standard playing contract ends on October 31 - giving guys less than a month to secure a new job and income.
The ignorant view of a player who walked away from footy with half a season to go would be, 'he's a quitter' but why whip a dead horse? Go and give yourself time to set up the next phase of your life - 99 percent of players have 30 years work ahead of them once footy finished so a head start on that can only be a good thing.
There's no doubt we have some way to go in this space before anything becomes a part of our footballing lives but one question basically covers everything: Is it the best thing for our game?