Nothing makes the four northern AFL clubs set aside their keen rivalries quicker than agitation about talent academies.
As West Coast called for a "discussion" on the league's controversial next generation academies, Brisbane chairman Andrew Wellington showed solidarity with Gold Coast after the Suns harvested a rich national draft bounty.
The draft on Monday and Tuesday highlighted two key issues - ongoing disquiet over the talent academies run by the Queensland and NSW clubs, and growing frustration among the other 14 clubs about their rules around their next generation academies.
West Coast have admitted to frustration after losing academy prospect Lance Collard to St Kilda with pick 28 on Monday night - and under AFL rules, not being able to do anything about it.
By contrast the Suns, as one of the four northern teams, were able to recruit four of their own academy players in the first round.
It is tipped to be a bumper crop for Gold Coast and their new coach Damien Hardwick.
Hardwick was unimpressed when Fox Footy posted on X his club had recruited the four academy players for "very little".
His blunt reply to the post was "be better" and Wellington used the same forum on Wednesday morning to defend the Lions, the Suns, Sydney and GWS.
Wellington's veiled defence of the Suns was telling, given the heated rivalry between the two Queensland clubs on the field.
"Bit of angst over the #AFLDraft and Nthn Academies. Looking at 2023 AFL lists, Nthn state clubs had approx 23% of their lists drafted from the clubs home state. Average for other 14 clubs approx 60%, over 65% for Vic clubs. That's a significant gap," Wellington posted.
"Academies grow the game in non-traditional AFL states which makes the code stronger for everyone. They address a disadvantage which is real and based on results there's no evidence they have created 4 Nthn super clubs at the expense of other clubs.
"Other sports are envious of what AFL is doing to grow the game. To unwind a strategy each time you get evidence it might be working appropriately would be a serious miscalculation."
Meanwhile, the Eagles could do nothing to stop Collard going to St Kilda.
The other 14 clubs cannot stop rivals poaching their NGA players if they are nominated inside the first 40 draft picks.
It happened several times in the first 40 picks - Essendon notably swooped on Western Bulldogs academy player Luamon Lual at No.39, one selection before the 'Dogs could have bidded for him and potentially thwarted the Bombers' interest.
The northern talent academies are designed to help those clubs nurture local talent in non-AFL markets.
The NGAs for the other 14 clubs are to nurture junior talent from Indigenous or multicultural backgrounds - essentially, a non-traditional pathway for players.
But there's growing angst that teams are losing NGA players and can do nothing about it.
"It's certainly worth discussion. We see again (on Tuesday) night that players were taken inside 40," said Eagles list boss Rohan O'Brien.
"It's really frustrating when you've done a lot of work with those players.
"We understand the rules and the objective behind trying to keep things equal, but if you're going to have the NGAs, and you're going to do the work with the players, we feel it's time for a real discussion around what that might look like."
Australian Associated Press
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