AFL to consider tweaks for the salary dump

The AFL will review the trade period to consider refining the rules around salary dumping and consider whether to extend the length of elite players’ first contracts from two years to three.

The league was pleased with the first experience of the new change to allow salary dumping but, as part of the annual review of the player movement period, will look at tweaking the rules.

Some clubs have pushed for the AFL to change the salary dump rules to make a club absorb the existing terms of the player tied into a salary dump in their salary cap, regardless of what they agree to actually re-contract the player for at their club.

This year Geelong was able to bring in Jack Bowes and pick 7 from the Gold Coast Suns in exchange for just a future third-round pick under the first major salary dump the AFL has seen.

Jack Bowes is on his way to Geelong.Credit:Getty Images

The Bowes salary dump will have the most far-reaching consequences of any trade of the recent player movement window and will fundamentally re-shape how trade periods are run in the future.

Effectively, Geelong was given pick No.7 as an incentive if they took Bowes, who was contracted for $825,000 per year for two more years, off the Suns’ books.

Geelong was able to bring Bowes in and renegotiate a new contract with him, thereby spreading his big contract out over a longer period of time. So, the Cats will only have the new four-year terms of Bowes’ contract in their salary cap.

Clubs have argued for, and the AFL will now consider, a change that would require a club in Geelong’s situation in future to have to keep the $825,000 from a Bowes-type contract in their salary cap for two years, not the smoothed out contract amount they are actually paying him.

Where you draw the line on what a salary dump is, and what is a regular trade, would be debatable, as often a traded player can take revised lower terms at a new club, or have a large portion of his contract paid by his club to play elsewhere.

Potentially, a demarcation line would be based on whether the recipient club gives up a worse pick than the one they are receiving for taking on a big contract.

For instance, Tom Mitchell and Brodie Grundy were not technically salary dumps, even though their two original clubs are paying a chunk of their salaries to play elsewhere in future, because in both cases Hawthorn and Collingwood received more compensation in draft picks than they gave up.

The AFL is not committed to making this change, but it is a tweak they will consider based on feedback from clubs.

Troubled by players leaving clubs, especially in emerging markets, to move early in their careers, as well as regard for the inflationary effect of massive salary demands from second-year players for their first unregulated contracts, the AFL will explore whether the initial player contract could, or should, be extended from two to three years, possibly only for first and second round draftees.

Any change to this would be difficult and require the involvement, and agreement, of the AFL Players’ Association.

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