Understanding the AFLW Sign/Trade and Free Agency periods

As much as it feels odd talking about player movements in May, the AFLW’s version of ‘silly season’ will begin next week.

Over the course of 18 days, the eight AFLW playing lists will each receive major shake-ups during what the AFL is calling the ‘Sign/Trade Period’ which runs from May 15-26, and the ‘Free Agency Period’ between May 29-June 1.

Brisbane will need to find a trade for Tayla Harris who has indicated she will be moving to Victoria. Image: Michael Klein

The AFL outlined the rules for each period earlier in the week, but making sense of them has proved to be a difficult task even for wider media.

Misreporting and different interpretations have further added to the confusion.

To make things nice and easy to understand, here are clear answers to some questions to help guide you through the next three weeks.


Basically, what’s going on?
The AFLW lists are being prepped for the 2018 season, similar to how AFL lists are trimmed and players are shipped around prior to the draft. Things are a little bit more complex than in the AFL, but essentially the same thing is happening, just with a whole bunch of terms and restrictions.

What will happen during the Sign/Trade Period (May 15-26)?
Primarily, teams will be re-signing up to 22 players for their respective 2018 lists. Along with offering current listed players new contracts, clubs will also be able to trade for players and draft picks in the 2017 AFL Women’s Draft. Trades are not limited to player swaps, meaning that one player can be traded for multiple players and/or draft picks. The AFL, players and clubs must all agree to trades before they are confirmed.

How many players will be cut?
The were 27 players on each AFLW list in 2017, meaning that a minimum of five players from each club will be released.

Can a player be on-traded?
No. Clubs cannot trade for players to use in future trades – once a player has been traded for, they must be signed to that club’s primary list for the 2018 season.

What happens if a player isn’t traded or offered a new contract?
They become an unrestricted free agent, meaning they are free to field offers from other AFLW clubs during the Free Agency Period. Their club does not have the right to match the presented offer from a rival club.

What happens if a player turns down a contract with their club and a trade can’t be reached?
Because free agency is for players who have not been offered a contract, those who choose not to re-sign cannot be picked up during the Free Agency Period. In the event of no trade being worked out, the player would then become eligible for the AFLW Draft.

What are payment tiers and why do they matter?
Payment tiers are three separate levels of player payments offered to AFLW athletes. Most players on each club’s list are in the bottom tier ($9,276), less than a handful are in the middle tier ($12,846) and two are on marquee contracts ($27,946)*. These tiers are important because players offered a lesser contract than in 2017 can decline and field offers from rival clubs. This would make those player restricted free agents, meaning their current club is allowed to match any received offers.
*Figures are season payments for the 2018 AFLW season

If players refuse to re-sign or can’t be traded, does the club lose out?
In this event, the AFL will have the discretion to determine if the club in question is to receive a compensation pick for the 2017 AFLW Draft.

What will happen during the Free Agency Period (May 29-June 1)?
Players who were not re-signed or traded by their respective clubs will be given the opportunity to find new homes.

What if those players aren’t picked up in free agency?
They will become eligible for the 2017 AFLW Draft, and will have the opportunity to redeem themselves in state competitions throughout the year.

How many players can each club sign in free agency?
Clubs are only limited to signing as many players as they have room for on their lists. For example, if a club re-signs 22 players in the Sign/Trade Period, they have enough room to sign five free agents. However, clubs will be forced to forfeit any draft picks that would put their list over the limit. For example, if a team has 24 players signed at the end of the Free Agency Period but still has five draft picks, their last two selections would be forfeited.

What happens after?
Clubs will be allowed to sign up to three rookies from May 15 onward. Rookie players are those new to Australian rules footy and/or have not been registered as a player over the past three seasons. Other than that, the long wait for the 2017 AFL Women’s Draft in October begins.

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