Why clubs feel burnt by Suns
Caroline WilsonSeptember 8, 2010
Gold Coast Suns recruit Michael Rischitelli.
EARLY yesterday, Michael Rischitelli telephoned his coach Michael Voss and told him he was quitting the club to join the Gold Coast. Almost simultaneously, the Suns' chief executive called Brisbane Lions CEO Michael Bowers to deliver the same message.
And within an hour the AFL called the Lions to tell them they would receive an end-of-first-round draft pick in compensation for losing the player heavily favoured to win the club's best and fairest award tomorrow night. All this after a press release delivered on the eve of the announcement.
The disturbingly stage-managed nature of Rischitelli's defection was virtually identical to that of Nathan Bock's from Adelaide and different from Nathan Krakouer's only in that Port Adelaide learnt Krakouer was leaving via a text message from his manager at the same time that Gold Coast chief executive Travis Auld called Port CEO Mark Haysman.
Most disturbing is that the AFL seems to be overseeing much of that running sheet. There is every chance head office already knows what Campbell Brown is expected to tell Hawthorn in the coming days and ditto Western Bulldog Jarrod Harbrow in the coming weeks. Certainly it receives each new Gold Coast heads of agreement the night before the players seem to be telling their clubs.
Perhaps it has already choreographed Gary Ablett's ''welcome to the Gold Coast'' media conference. Player managers and the players' union can say what they like about free agency and point to club disloyalty, but there is no escaping the fact that the industry is enduring a most uncomfortable state of affairs.
''I think there's been a lot of care and attention been put to the creation of the new clubs,'' Bowers said last night. ''But, for the club providing the player, there's not a lot of love and care and attention going that way. I'm not sure how we we can improve that. Welcome to the new world.''
Although Rischitelli might argue that not a lot of love was directed his way last season when the Lions pushed him towards Carlton, Port Adelaide insists the same cannot be said for the club's support of Krakouer over the past four seasons.
Port learnt via The Age that Krakouer was leaving, although the player continued to deny he had reached a decision. ''We were very frustrated by the lack of respect shown by Nathan and his manager,'' said Haysman, ''particularly given the amount of investment we'd put into him. How much that lack of respect was contributed by the Gold Coast, I don't know, but it was poor form.''
Now that the reality of the mooted secret deals and unofficial arrangements has unfolded, a cloud has been placed over the game and certainly these early stages of the 2010 finals series. Although the connections of Matthew Pavlich regard him as most likely to remain at Fremantle, the captain's decision not to commit to the club before the finals sends a dubious message to his teammates.
It seems beyond belief that Geelong, with all it has achieved over the past decade, could be fielding a champion player who has already reached an unofficial agreement with a new club.
Surely it can't be right that the club is the last to know. Surely there is a less cynical manner in which to control this climate of suspicion.
Certainly Hawthorn hopes that Brown handles his expected departure differently. Hawks chief executive Stuart Fox said he would be disappointed to be forced to endure a similar process should his club - as now seems close to certain - lose Brown.
''From a personal perspective, I believe the player and the club should be told early,'' said Fox. ''Particularly if the player has been an integral part of the club and its culture. There's a duty of care to the club and its members, and from what we've seen in recent weeks, I would suggest that hasn't been the case.''
All clubs admit they were included in the planning process but none were officially told of the loophole in the AFL rules that caught them napping this time last year and is being exploited by Greater Western Sydney. And GWS has two years' grace to sign uncontracted players.
''As a football club, we don't take any pleasure with any other club's displeasure,'' Auld told The Age last night. ''But this process was signed off by the 16 clubs and we have taken the decision to work as hard as we can within the rules to achieve success. We also want to be as respectful as we can, but I'm not sure how else we can do it.''
Source: The Age