In the inaugural year of free agency in AFL football Tom Murphy moved from Hawthorn to Gold Coast as an unrestricted free agent. Murphy played 17 games at the Gold Coast in 2013 after just six at Hawthorn in 2012.
This article was included in the 2012 AFL Players’ Annual Report.
I loved Hawthorn, I probably always will. They were the club who gave me my start in the AFL and I am forever grateful. But after eight years as a Hawthorn player I knew that there would be limited opportunities for me in the future.
The best AFL clubs have depth, that is one of the reasons why Hawthorn made the grand final in 2012, but one of the hardest things as a player is it be a part of that depth.
Speaking to my manager after the 2012 grand final he informed me I was likely to get another year at the Hawks but there was also an offer from the Gold Coast on the table. Thanks to free agency I was a Gold Coast Sun less than two weeks after the siren sounded on the 2012 season.
As an unrestricted free agent I was able to move from Hawthorn to Gold Coast with limited fuss. Over the years we have heard of players who want to move to a certain club but due to the complexity of trade week and the uncertainty of the drafts they have been unable to get to their desired destination and ended up staying put or going to their second or third choice club.
We have also seen deals get held up in trade week until the ‘big fish’ has been caught. I am so grateful that I didn’t have to contend with the stress of these two scenarios and I was able to slip through without any complication. The certainty of the offer from the Gold Coast made my decision so much easier.
I am so grateful that I didn’t have to contend with the stress of these two scenarios and I was able to slip through without any complication.
I think the reason the AFL Players’ Association fought so hard for free agency was for players like myself. I knew that I wasn’t going to have 17 other clubs contacting my manager, it was only going to be one or two so to be able to make that happen and not have to wait on other deals or be a part of a package was great.
It makes sense that if you are at a club and you can foresee limited opportunities then you should be able to move on. I only played six games in 2012 and given the limited life span of an AFL career it is really important to me to make the most of my time in the game.
From Hawthorn’s perspective they can only play 22 players each week and they were extremely supportive of my position. I spoke to Alistair Clarkson and Football Manager Mark Evans and they were thrilled for me. We both had a clear understanding of our positions and the reality that this game is a business becomes clearer by the day. While myself and Clinton Young moved on via free agency and they were able to acquire an All-Australian full back in Brian Lake.
Some might argue that free agency will increase the gulf between the top and bottom club. The reality is through free agency the fringe players who make club lists strong have the opportunity to move should the opportunity present. This means clubs need to inject resources into developing their young players, of which the lower clubs have more.
I see the introduction of free agency as a success and while it may undergo some tweaking before it is perfect for all parties, from the a players point of view the ability to move clubs with greater freedom and the ability to squeeze the most out of an AFL career is only a good thing for the game.