Would Fremantle fans give up champion skipper Matthew Pavlich for Perth product Lance Franklin?

Or would West Coast supporters sacrifice gun midfielder Luke Shuey for Subiaco’s Daniel Rich?

Welcome to a world where the AFL goes back to the future.

One where AFL clubs have zones and get to take the best players from their home state before their interstate competitors. It’s also a world where instead of being rivals, brothers Stephen and Bradley Hill would be teammates.

“I would’ve, of course, loved them both here. It would’ve been perfect,” said the boys’ mother, Stephanie Gray.

She is in no doubt the beginning of Stephen’s career at the Dockers was assisted by being able to stay at home, but believes the younger Bradley will be better equipped to settle into Melbourne after being taken by Hawthorn in last month’s national draft.

“Bradley seemed a little worried for the first few days, but he seems a lot happier now when I talk to him on the phone,” she said.

While the AFL has no intention of reintroducing zoning into WA, the concept is alive and kicking in the game’s two most important frontiers.

In late 2009, club academies in NSW and Queensland were introduced by the AFL in a bid to increase the number of players drafted from the rugby league strongholds.

Sydney, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast are encouraged to develop junior talent in their zones, from the age of just 12, by providing them with priority access.

Suns ruckman Zac Smith, who finished third in last season’s Rising Star award in his first season, was taken as a zone selection.

Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna said the priority zone selections gave the Queensland clubs a huge boost.

“Brisbane and Gold Coast have a massive advantage over Collingwood and Essendon, who have a lot of resources and funding to throw at recruiting,” he said. “Us having an academy up here and having a door open for this Queensland talent only helps us. You put the time and effort in, so at least you get the first rights on the pick.”

McKenna gladly raided WA for future stars David Swallow, Brandon Matera and Jaeger O’Meara, but the Claremont product who played 267 games for West Coast remains a traditionalist at heart.

While acknowledging the problems that would come with a more pronounced emphasis on zoning, McKenna hopes it will be re-introduced in WA in some form.

“I think if everyone just sat down and thought about it you’d hope they’d go back to that way, but there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before that happens,” he said. “It’s hard to police it too. All of a sudden you’d have people that live in one zone and their postal address is in another zone. All that stuff started to happen with bogus addresses and stuff (in WA under zoning).”

Fremantle will enter 2012 with less than half its senior list coming from WA for the first time after selecting five players from Victoria and South Australia at the recent national draft. Just 18 of the Dockers’ current senior list were produced locally.

When Fremantle read out Victorian recruit Hayden Crozier’s name at No. 20, his mother’s shriek of “Noooo” as she realised her 17-year-old son was moving 3000km away was audible around the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.

The Dockers chose three South Australians in the draft, while Port Adelaide did the reverse and took Brendon Ah Chee and Nathan Blee from the west.

New Freo coach Ross Lyon, a Victorian who played for Fitzroy and Brisbane before coaching St Kilda, believes the colour of a player’s guernsey is all that matters.

“I’m not sure how culturally it all unfolds in WA, but I think the Eagles were pretty happy to have Chris Judd from Victoria,” Lyon said.

“It’s about the colour of your jumper and everyone representing it with pride it’s not a State-of-Origin series. It’s a national competition and clubs are sourcing players from the USA, Ireland; so it’s just about getting the best talent through for your club.”

A common argument put against allowing the two WA clubs to have first crack at the local talent in the WAFL is that it would make the Eagles and Dockers too strong.

But an analysis of a theoretical home-grown West Coast outfit under a full zone system based on the WAFL teams the Eagles have been allocated under the father-son rule in Claremont, Subiaco, East Perth and West Perth shows it would be no stronger than the current side and possibly weaker.

The hypothetical West Coast team would gain Brisbane’s Rich and Fremantle guns Nat Fyfe and Stephen Hill, but lose headline acts including Darren Glass, Daniel Kerr, Nic Naitanui and Josh Kennedy to Fremantle, as well as key interstate players such as the Selwood brothers, Luke Shuey, Beau Waters and Shannon Hurn.

The Dockers’ all-local fantasy outfit would be a competition superpower.

While interstaters Pavlich and David Mundy would be lost, along with Fyfe, Hill and Greg Broughton to the Eagles, the East Fremantle-dominated outfit would surely be the envy of the AFL.

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