Rookie rule change to make Irish players more enticing to AFL clubs

Clubs’ plea for addition of a fourth year to help develop young players finally granted

Anton Tohill: Former Derry U-20 star made his full  Australian Football League debut for Collingwood last month.

Anton Tohill: Former Derry U-20 star made his full Australian Football League debut for Collingwood last month.

 

A new rule change allowing AFL clubs to give third-year rookies an extra ‘replacement year’ away from the primary list is certain to boost willingness to invest in so-called project players such as those recruited from GAA.

League bosses have written to clubs to inform them that such players will be able to spend a fourth year on a rookie list, which comes as a huge boost to the likes of Collingwood’s Anton Tohill and Greater Western Sydney’s Callum Brown, who have just made their breakthroughs at senior level, as well as Geelong’s Stefan Okunbor, who has yet to make his debut.

Under the old rule, clubs would have had to consider cutting out-of-contract players at the end of the third year unless they seemed certain to become permanent members of the senior set-up.

Having long argued that the likes of Tohill, Brown and Okunbor would benefit from another year of development, they will now be able to keep them on board for a fourth season.

Clubs had urged the AFL to consider the rule change due to the recent interruptions to both NAB League and state-league competitions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which they believed put the development of several players at risk of stalling significantly.

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