OPINION

AFL's new draft model is complex, but the early signs are good

The AFL's recruiting process is no longer straight forward, but is it better? Gone are the days when clubs would enter the national draft with picks laid in front of them.

All they had to do was select the best player available at that spot, which made it easy for supporters to follow.

Now there are the national and rookie drafts, delisted free agency, supplemental selection period, category B rookies, academies and a revived midseason draft.

The new national draft model is complex and, if you're no good at maths, hard to keep up with. Clubs can trade picks, including future selections, before and during the draft. Rivals can bid on academy prospects and the clubs those players are aligned to can choose to match or pass.

Points are allocated to these selections, meaning clubs must wheel-and-deal picks to ensure they have enough in the bank.

But do the pros outweigh the messy nature of it all? There is method to the madness. This year's AFL national draft, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday nights last week, resulted in six Next Generation Academy footballers finding new football homes.

The NGA was designed to give indigenous and multicultural players a better chance of making it to the AFL.

Clubs are assigned remote areas from across Australia. They can select players from their zone and nurture them before they hit the draft age of 18. They then have first dibs.

This year, Fremantle matched Carlton's bid for exciting midfielder-forward Liam Henry, using pick nine on the West Australian, while Richmond picked up Bigoa Nyuon with pick 54 after St Kilda decided to let him through.

Fellow NGA products Isaiah Butters and Leno Thomas (Fremantle), Matthew McGuinness (North Melbourne) and Harry Pepper (Hawthorn) were snapped up post-draft as category B rookies.

The northern academies - designed to boost the Queensland and New South Wales markets - produced four draftees, including Tom Green who landed at the Greater Western Sydney Giants at pick 10.

Concessions allowed Gold Coast to pick up a further three academy prospects for nothing via the rookie intake.

Keeping up with the different recruiting paths is difficult.

But they're designed to give footballers, from all walks of life, a fighting chance of making it to the AFL. And that can only be a good thing.

Justine McCullagh-Beasy is an ACM journalist