Unpopular: Academy Selections, Zoning and Father-Sons are great for the AFL

Somehow, someway, the Sydney Swans are 3-0.


A new exciting, scintillating brand of footy has delivered them wins against Brisbane and reigning premier Richmond.


Making their form all the more extraordinary, the Swans had nine players with less than 20 games experience at the MCG on Saturday.


Two of those were Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden, Swans academy selections from last year’s draft that combined to take out the first two rising star nominations this season. They’ve joined Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills and Nick Blakey as academy selections all having a major impact in the Swans resurgence in 2021.



Now, with the Swans unexpectedly good again, complaints have begun to roll in on the ‘fairness’ of the academy selections. These chorus of complaints are off the mark, academy selections are beneficial to the expansion of the AFL.


The AFL is a rare sport in that it has both an annual draft, whilst simultaneously having some underage players linked with clubs through academies, zoning and father-sons.


The academy programs in both Queensland and New South Wales are used to motivate young kids to play Australian Rules football. They do so in the knowledge that if good enough, they will likely stay in their home state. Without this, those kids could be lost to the sports that currently inhabit those states: Rugby League or Rugby Union.


To compensate for the potential complaints, the AFL allocated zones to each of the other clubs. Also, given their recent addition to the league, the Suns and Giants are currently at a disadvantage when it comes to father-sons.


Whilst Collingwood could have the Daicos brothers, the Brown brothers, Darcy Moore and Will Kelly running around in the same team next season, the Giants and Suns are unlikely to have a father-son selection for another 15-20 years.


Although some may like to think otherwise, academy, zoning and father-son selections don’t ruin the integrity or fairness of the AFL competition. Ultimately, those three actually erase or cancel out the potential disadvantage caused by another.


On top of this and just as importantly, the AFL is better off for having the likes of Heeney, Mills and the cohort of academy selections in the league, rather than having them potentially ply their trade in another sport.


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