Freo go global in search for new talent
AFL clubs are poised to throw their recruiting net even wider across the globe in a bid to retain a competitive edge in the expanding competition, according to Fremantle’s general manager of player development Brad Lloyd.
With significant draft and recruiting concessions for Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney in the next two years, Lloyd said it would become increasingly important to assess talent from other elite sports such as gridiron and basketball in the USA.
And financially sound clubs, such as Fremantle and West Coast, which could commit more football department spending in recruitment, would have a significant advantage over poorer rivals.
The AFL has already secured high-profile code-jumpers Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau and Dockers coach Mark Harvey speculated this week that Parramatta Eels powerhouse Fuifui Moimoi could also make the switch.
It was revealed recently that the AFL and leading Australian sports agent Miro Gladovic had embarked on an ambitious plan to find American athletes capable of playing the game.
The first of a series of trials in the US will be held in Dallas in August, with organisers hoping 5000 Americans will start their chase for an AFL career.
Fremantle are already reaping the rewards for their increased expenditure in recruiting with the success of mature-age rookies such as Michael Barlow and Alex Silvagni.
Lloyd recently returned from an AFL initiated fact-finding mission to the US to assess some of the recruiting structures of that country’s elite sports. The trip was also attended by West Coast recruiting manager Steve Woodhouse and officials from Hawthorn and Collingwood.
It featured the NFL combine, which is the equivalent of the AFL’s annual draft camp where the nation’s best young talent is tested under the eye of scouts, and a tour through the world-renowned Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.
Lloyd said national recruiters were poised to look more strongly at State league talent but with clubs able to offer up to 24 international scholarships, he could not rule out the possibility of American footballers and basketballers becoming future stars of the Australian game.
“It was a good opportunity to see the NFL code and basketball from a recruiting perspective to see what was out there from a contracting point of view,” Lloyd said.
“There are talented athletes all over the world and we need to be able to look outside the square and beyond our backyard to other sports.
“The AFL has the international scholarship system in place to recruit international athletes and they’re encouraging clubs to get as many as they can.
“There’s no doubt there’s some phenomenal athletes out there … but the critical aspect of AFL football is kicking. That’s the most difficult aspect of looking at the international perspective.
“It comes down to the resources you’ve got available at your disposal and that’s fairly varied within all the clubs. Some clubs have a lot better resources to have more coverage than other clubs.
“It allows a combination of spreading a wider net and spending more time on the key players you’re analysing. I think having more resources and a diverse recruiting team helps the total pool and keeps your recruiting rankings more on track.
“We’ve definitely got an interest in looking into other markets and our recruiting network will be international.”
The 10-day AFL research trip also included visits to several NFL clubs and NBA and US college basketball games.
Lloyd’s involvement continued Fremantle’s commitment to a stringent recruiting model the club signed off on last year.
He said it had had helped build on crucial relationships and information-sharing with elite international sports bodies, as well as providing tips on strategies for dealing with the AFL’s upcoming introduction of free agency.
He also promised the Dockers would not lose focus on the fruits of the domestic talent pool as the impact of the new expansion clubs took hold.
“There are talented players in the State leagues who have been overlooked for whatever reason and the guys who do make it through are normally of strong character because they’ve been able to get out into the workforce,” he said.
“We need to increase the size of the (player) pool because I think Gold Coast and West Sydney will be looking at them as well, so you need to take all that into consideration. You need to saturate every market place to come up with your final order.
“We needed to provide a little bit of depth on our list so we’ve put a fair bit of focus and resources into those State leagues to find players who can complement your team.”