The AFL have declared that James Borlase qualifies as a pre-draft pick for the Adelaide Crows for the 2019 season. For many fans this would mean little but for Port Adelaide, the club with whom his father captained to the 1998 SANFL Premiership, it has reinforced a long held view that the father-son rule disadvantages non-Victorian teams.
I'll say it again. The father-son rule is a rort for former VFL clubs.
It also royally screws over Port Adelaide setting the bar higher at 200 games for our pre-AFL SANFL players.
— Ports (@Ports1870) October 9, 2018
Although the above tweet is from a Port man, he makes a good point, and I’m a Crows fan saying this. The Father-Son rule is one of the more contentious and somewhat controversial rules in the game today. Many great players have been drafted under the Father-Son rule, Matthew Richardson, Dustin Fletcher, Jobe Watson, Gary Ablett Jr and Tom Hawkins stand out as a few icons, but they all have one thing in common- they’re all Victorian, and there’s a more biased than expected reason for that.
Because the Father-Son rule was established all the way back in 1949, there was no consideration, not that there needed to be, for players hailing from any other states, all the clubs were Victorian, so it didn’t matter. However, half a lifetime later in 1987 a problem with the system arose, two new clubs entered the league. Now things needed a change, and in 1991 when Adelaide entered the league, new rules had to apply there too. The new rules were to account for players from Western Australia and South Australia whose fathers had played in the local leagues of their home state, the WAFL and the SANFL respectively.
The rules then had to apply to even more expansion clubs with Port Adelaide and Fremantle also joining. The rules declared that any WA club could select a player if his father had played at least 150 matches for his respective WAFL club, and West Coast and Fremantle were each allocated half of the league’s clubs to be able to select from. This already seemed unfair as Victorian fathers would only have to play 100 games to see their sons pull on their respective colours.
If it seems unfair for the men from the West, South Australia really takes it in the teeth, as their fathers need to play 200 SANFL matches to have their kids play at home. These rules are still in place today, and due to this, between the two South Australian clubs just one Father-Son selection has been made from a SANFL club, that of Brett Ebert in 2002 by the Power.
Clubs from SA and WA can also select players under Father-Son that have played the now standard 100 AFL matches too, and the Crows have done so twice in Ben Jarman, son of Darren and Jackson Edwards, son of Tyson. The Power and Dockers have made just one Father-Son selection each, with the Eagles having made six. Not including rookie selections, Collingwood and Geelong have made 24 between them, and only three Victorian team have made less Father-Son picks than the Eagles who have comfortably the most of the interstate sides. It makes it look a little bad, doesn’t it?
The most infamous Father-Son incident is of course the Bryce Gibbs saga. Gibbs, now a Crows star, played 231 games for Carlton before he finally got to return to his home state and play for a club which should have netted him with a Father-Son selection in 2006. Ross Gibbs, Bryce’s father had a stellar career with SANFL club Glenelg, who are one of the clubs the Crows are able to select Father-Son prospects from.
He played 253 games for the Bays, but not all of them before the Crows inception, in fact, just shy of 200, and hence his son Bryce was ineligible to be a Father-Son selection. This caused uproar, as had Gibbs been from any other state his son would been available for selection. It drove yet another wedge between Victoria and the rest of the country as a war for equality amongst states still continues today.
Not only are all these rules a disadvantage to interstate clubs, there was yet another clause that hung over the interstate clubs. It stated that the rules above would only last for 20 years until after the clubs first season, which again would disadvantage men who became fathers at a later age. This has been altered and the rules remain in place.
Although these rules are slowly becoming less relevant with time, they still show a large bias away from the interstate clubs, South Aussies and Western Australians will always tell stories of Russell Ebert, Barry Robran, Bernie Naylor and Ken Farmer alike, and they’ll always love their local leagues, but a bit of recognition on the big stage wouldn’t hurt. Just making the Father-Son games threshold even would do nicely.