There has been considerable media commentary about AFL Academies in New South Wales and Queensland. This media interest has been led by journalist/media identity and Collingwood President, Eddie McGuire.

I think it is important we clarify why the Academies were developed and how they operate in terms of access to talent.

Players can only be selected via a bidding system – identical to that available for father-son selections. Players are not “hidden away” as Mr McGuire claims. All will play in the Under-18 National Championships for the whole football world to see. In fact, it was our Club that pushed for the NSW/ACT Rams to re-join the TAC Cup competition. Despite his claims, Mr McGuire and the entire football world seem to have a very good grasp on a number of talented players currently within our Academy system, as we would expect.   

It is wrong to suggest the bidding system in some way guarantees Clubs will acquire talent under market value. This has not been the case with father-son selections.

The QBE Sydney Swans Academy was established in 2010 as an initiative of the AFL. An AFL working group – that included then Collingwood recruiting manager Derek Hine (now GM List Management) - formulated and approved the club-based Academy system.  The Swans Academy currently trains approximately 550 boys aged between 11 and 19 in nine regions utilising 60 coaches. Each player receives approximately 2.5 hours of coaching per week. The Academy costs the Sydney Swans in excess of $1 million per annum to run and is largely funded by donations and corporate support. Since its inception in 2010, the Swans Academy has engaged around 1000 young athletes in Sydney and its surrounds to an elite training environment.

The Academy system was introduced by the AFL to address the paucity of players being drafted from New South Wales and Queensland.

In the past 10 years only 17 New South Wales-based players have been selected in the National Draft. Of these, seven were compulsory zone selections for the GWS Giants.

Only six AFL clubs have been involved in drafting these 17 players over this 10-year period. In total these players have played 408 AFL games, at an average of 24 per player. This is, and was seen as such, a massive underdevelopment of potential talent given NSW’s population represents 32% of the total Australian population. Clearly the most talented athletes in NSW were playing other sports.

The Swans Academy has thus far produced 14 senior games from one player - Brandon Jack.  

The Academy system is designed to promote AFL in non-traditional football states and to develop a higher standard of player for both local leagues and at the elite level. As can be seen from the facts we are a long way off this objective being met in terms of development of elite talent.

The facts are that the introduction of two expansion clubs has diluted the national talent pool. Therefore, it is vital to have a robust system to develop the game and talent outside of Victoria such that the game can become truly national. The Academy system is doing a fantastic job, but there is a long way to go. If the AFL competition becomes flooded with talent from New South Wales and Queensland, it will be the best problem we have ever had. The four northern state Academies will grow the talent pool for all Clubs.

It is ironic that just days after bemoaning the talent in the AFL system, that McGuire would attack one of the most important initiatives in the development of football talent across Australia.