AFL: Andrew Dillon defends draft compensation system

New AFL boss Andrew Dillon has gone on the front foot defending the much-queried formula for free-agency compensation, adamant it has helped make the competition more equal than ever.

Dillon declared the formula was “clear” amid criticisms of North Melbourne gaining pick 3 in the upcoming AFL draft as compensation for free agent Ben McKay, who was drafted at pick 21, joining Essendon on a six-year deal.

Amid concerns it was too generous for a player who finished seventh in North’s best and fairest in 2023 when the Kangaroos finished last, Dillon, who helped create the system in his previous role, said the formula was based on age and payments, hadn’t been altered and didn’t need altering.

“The compensation formula is based on Ben‘s age and also what his guaranteed payments are underneath that,” Dillon said on Tuesday.

“It’s a clear formula and whatever that formula decides is what the answer is. We’re comfortable our performance has worked the same since free agency came in in 2014.

“What‘s really clear is that it’s based on the guaranteed payments that Ben’s been offered.

“We don’t make the player salaries public, so that makes it slightly difficult, but the formula is the formula.

“I was involved when free agency came in and that was a really important part of making sure that we got the balance right between clubs losing a player and not getting anything in return.

“At the moment the compensation will stay, and that’s part of the agreement that we’ve got with the players association.”

Dillon said some tweaks to the system could be needed if a mid-season trade system was put in place.

But he said the exchange of players had become better for all clubs and, despite the Kangaroos winning back-to-back wooden spoons, the competition had never been more even.

“One of the great things about the AFL is the competitive balance that we‘ve got. We’ve got a draft, we’ve got a salary cap and now we’ve got a soft cap,” he said.

“You only have to look at the AFL results over the last 10-20 years that we‘ve got one of the most equalised competitions.

“You only have to look at the finals series that we just had where five finals at the MCG were decided by a total of 20 points.

“We’ve got an unbelievably equal competition and all of the different mechanisms all come to that equalisation.

“Things in isolation, all of those things added up go to the equalisation. Free agency and compensation is a part of the equalisation measures.”

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