Carlton won two games in 2018 and were wildly uncompetitive for much of the season. This was the final 22 games of Bolton and Silvagni’s highly publicised 66 game rebuild, yet on field performances were the worst since the two arrived at the club. Never in my 27 years as a member of the Carlton Football Club have I found it as difficult to motivate myself to attend games.
Therefore, the potential of a priority pick was a source of much needed hope for Blues fans and the rumour mill of where in the draft it might come was intoxicating. Speculation ranged from pick 19 (after the first round), pick 12 (prior to the finalists) to even as high as pick 2 or 3, Blues fans were convinced that something good was coming their way.
Then came the announcement from the AFL, “Carlton’s bid for a priority pick has been rejected by the commission.” The all too familiar wave of disappointment washed over me as my phone lit up with angry emojis from a Carlton supporting family and mocking GiFs from opposition supporting ‘friends.’
Why should Carlton have got a priority pick? In all honesty, they shouldn’t have.
It is a bit like buying your first house, if your parents hand you the deposit of course you are going to take the cheque but it is not the same achievement as making the sacrifices and saving for it on your own.
Carlton are going to have to do it the hard way and rightly so. The AFL coming to the aide of teams that have been poorly run or overzealous in their rebuilds, would effectively be rewarding incompetence and disadvantaging clubs that have worked hard to be resourceful with their drafting and development or punish other struggling clubs like St Kilda and Fremantle by moving them back in the draft order. Carlton and Gold Coast have 16 and 15 first round picks on their lists already which they will add to in the upcoming draft, so there is no evidence that an extra early pick would advantage the clubs anyway.
However, the AFL cannot leave Carlton and Gold Coast dwindling at the bottom of the ladder for extended periods of time as it would halt the growth of AFL on the Gold Coast, damage TV rights with non-competitive games and potentially lose a generation of Carlton supporters. This makes the AFLs decision to give Carlton and Gold Coast two picks each to use on the mature bodied state league players a good one.
Every year there are mature age players ready to contribute like Tim Kelly, Bayley Fritsch, Kane Lambert, Michael Barlow and if you’re lucky elite players like Sam Mitchell or Harry Taylor. Getting these players to the bottom clubs will improve their competitiveness while keeping the supply of talented 18 years old available in a ‘pure’ draft.
Carlton supporters need to pick up their toys and put them back in the cot, the AFL has got it right this time.