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Giant deals trading on questionable integrity

Citizen Journalists

Daniel Cherny
Citizen Journalist

Written on Thursday, 04 July 2013 17:27

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When determining the base upon which the pair of expansion teams would be built, the AFL took the calculated decision to use a variety of initiatives, all aimed at directing the game's best young talent to Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney. Having committed to the new frontiers, there could be no half-measures. The spectre of the stuttering Brisbane Bears loomed large in the minds of the League's powerbrokers when granting the immense draft and trading concessions given to the Suns and Giants.

The central concept seemed sound. Both new entities had to be moulded into bona fide premiership aspirants sooner rather than later, but uprooting more than a handful of established players from other clubs was an unpalatable option. Promotional names like Gary Ablett aside, it was the next generation of talent, a group untainted in fans' mind by defections from other clubs that was anointed as the force to lead the infant outfits from birth to silverware.

So an array of different mechanisms were implemented to ensure that new talent went north. Pre-draft selections, priority selections, zone selections, pre-listed players and mini-drafts. The minutiae is largely irrelevant, what ultimately matters is that it is these various designs that led the ilk of Jeremy Cameron, Jaeger O'Meara, David Swallow, Stephen Coniglio, Zac Smith and Jack Martin to their respective destinations.

This was all the AFL's doing. Whatever your opinion on the merits of the two new clubs and their door prizes, the clubs themselves were only opening the gifts laid out for them.

This week however the tale has taken an unsavoury twist.

GWS has put its first pick in this year's draft on the table as trade bait for potential suitors. Giants CEO Dave Matthews was not silly enough to definitively put the first selection at the draft on offer. He cheekily mused, "It mightn't be pick one. We're still hopeful that with Phil Davis back this week and a couple of other players back, we're still hopeful of getting some wins in the back half of the year."

The implication however was made immediately clear. The gargantuan frame of Victorian teenager Tom Boyd is a tantalisting proposition for a host of clubs at various stages of development and contention. So rarely do number one picks get offered for trade that the ears of coaches and list managers competition-wide would have pricked up immediately. Indeed there has already been an abundance of media speculation as to what it would take to force the Giants' hand in relinquishing the golden egg.

In all likelihood, the woeful Giants will 'earn' the right to the first selection without any considerable fuss. Two games and percentage adrift of 17th placed Melbourne, GWS are now highly unlikely to escape the cellar. Yet the developments of the week remain problematic.

This time last season, the second-season Suns also sat winless at the foot of the table. Their three victories at the tail end of 2012 and the dramatic improvement of 2013 is evidence though that these expansion teams can turn the corner rapidly.

Moreover the hypotheticals are now a concern. What if GWS entered its Round 19 encounter with Melbourne a game behind the Demons, and having been told privately midweek that the Western Bulldogs would entertain the prospect of giving up Ryan Griffen and their first pick for the right to Boyd's services? Suddenly the notion of tanking re-emerges with a ready-made midfield dynamo potentially on the line.

On a deeper level the comments from GWS are symptomatic of a malaise that seems to have engulfed the competition's latest entrant. Rightly or not, the perception of the Giants is increasingly one of a team content to sit on its heels for the remainder of the season letting the thrashings accumulate and awaiting the injection next year of a high-priced recruit subsidised by the AFL's marketing department. You know, that Franklin bloke.

With his fate next year determined a long time ago, Kevin Sheedy, once upon a time football's pre-eminent coach does not seem to care an iota that he is notionally in command of one of the most non-competitive sides in VFL/AFL history. That is his prerogative. But Sheedy is only one stakeholder.

Melbourne CEO Peter Jackson labeled the Demons an "impediment" to the industry at the press conference announcing the sacking of Mark Neeld. What does that then make the Giants, a team that conceded twelve goals against Melbourne in a single quarter? North Melbourne recorded an 86-point victory over GWS last week but no one raised an eyebrow. That is not a healthy situation for a league already plagued by various sagas compromising its integrity.

No doubt the tide will turn, and when it does there may well be no stopping the boys from Blacktown. If they are celebrating back-to-back premierships in eight years time, the Giants' brains trust will deservedly be praised for orchestrating the build of a dynasty. Those with longer memories however will, even if only as a brief interlude, think back to those unsettling days when it all came together, and the competition was poorer for it.

Daniel Cherny is a sports journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @danielcherny

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