EXPLAINER: Everything you need to know about Trade, Free Agency
Here's everything you need to know about the Trade Period, Free Agency and more.
By Michael Whiting, AFL.com.au on
Get the lowdown on the dates, rules, draft implications and more ahead of the 2023 Free Agency and Trade periods.
What is the Trade Period?
A two-week window that occurs following each year's Grand Final, but before the National Draft, allowing all 18 clubs to exchange players and draft picks in a formal setting.
It gives clubs a chance to improve their playing list or selections at the Draft.
What are the key dates of this year's Trade Period?
The Free Agency period will open on Friday October 6 at 9am AEDT and close on Monday October 16 at 5pm AEDT
The Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period will commence on Monday October 9 at 9am AEDT and close on Wednesday October 18 at 7.30pm AEDT.
Continental Tyres AFL Trade Radio is on every day of the Trade and Free Agency period from 7am-6pm AEDT.
Who and what can be traded?
Players and draft picks, or a combination of both. Participating clubs deem what's a fair exchange, although ultimately it is verified by the AFL.
When it comes to draft picks, only picks from that year and the next year can be traded.
Most trades involve two clubs, but exchanges involving three or more are allowed.
How are clubs allocated their draft selections?
Draft selections are the inverse order of the finishing ladder from that season. In 2023, West Coast finished 18th, therefore its first draft pick is No.1. North Melbourne finished 17th, so its pick is No.2. Collingwood won the premiership, so its pick is No.18.
This repeats a minimum of three times (each club must select three players at the draft) but can go beyond that depending on the number of list spots each club has to fill.
With clubs able to trade a year in advance, the selections aren't always a perfect inverse order. For example, in 2022, Fremantle traded its future first-round pick to Melbourne as part of the Luke Jackson trade. It means Demons have pick No.5 - which is essentially the Dockers' pick for finishing 14th - in the draft this year.
What is the Draft Value Index?
This is a system devised by the AFL that attaches a points total to each draft pick. For example, pick No.1 is worth 3000 points, pick No.2 is worth 2517 points, and so it goes all the way down to pick No.73, which is worth nine points. Any picks from 74 onwards are worth zero.
This system is in place for two reasons. The first is to ensure clubs pay 'fair value' for father-son selections or Academy players they have special access to. For example, in 2022, Brisbane had access to father-son Will Ashcroft. North Melbourne chose to select him at No.2 in the draft, but the Lions were able to match the bid (2517 points, minus a 20 per cent discount) to attain the player.
The second reason for the system is a rough way for the AFL and clubs to identify if a swap of picks is fair. It's not a perfect science, but a club swapping pick No.2 (2517 points) for No.8 (1551) and No.18 (985) would be close to fair.
Clubs requiring points to match bids on father-son and Academy players will often 'trade down' to gather more points. For example, a club that has pick No.25 (756 points) might trade with another club that has pick No.41 (412) and No.42 (395). This gives them 807 points – an increase – while the other club moves to a much higher selection in the draft.
Can clubs trade who they like?
No. Clubs can trade players that are out of contract, but who they have an intention of re-signing if they can't find a suitor. However, if a player has one or more year to run on their existing deal, they must have the player's consent to be traded to a club. A player can veto any proposed move they don't agree with.
What is a 'salary dump'?
Clubs that are close to, or over, the salary cap (the amount every club is allowed to spend on assembling its team), might wish to trade one of its more expensive players that has fallen out of favour with the coaches.
To incentivise another club to trade for that player and his hefty contract, the original club can attach a draft pick to it, so essentially the receiving club gets the player and a draft pick to take on the contract.
What is Free Agency?
Free Agency gives players another vehicle to change clubs.
There are two types of free agents – restricted and unrestricted.
Unrestricted free agents have served eight years or more at one club and are out of contract and can automatically move to the club of their choice. There is no need for a trade. This includes any player that has been delisted. They're called delisted free agents and can go to any club that wants them without needing a trade.
Restricted free agents are a little trickier. They have served eight years or more with one club and are in the top 25 per cent of wage earners at that club – often the 'star' players of a team. Opposition clubs can make an offer to lure these players. If the offer is matched – both in duration and financially – by their current club but the player still wants to move, a trade then has to be struck.
What is Free Agency compensation?
The AFL will allocate draft picks to clubs with a net loss of free agents over one Trade Period, using a formula it has devised.
The formula produces a points rating for players based on: the new contract of the free agent and the age of the free agent. Draft picks will be allocated in one of five places – first round (immediately following that club's current selection), end of first round, second round, end of second round, or third round.
Anything else we should know?
Delisted free agents can still be signed once the Trade Period closes and clubs are also able to exclusively trade draft picks – not players – up until and during the National Draft, which this year will be held on November 20-21.
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