The AFL was accused of violating its own free agency rules in 2013, with the Sydney Swans claiming the league played a big part in trying to lure Buddy Franklin to GWS.
Franklin, with only a year left on his contract at Hawthorn, was heavily linked with a move to the struggling Giants, with the goalscoring forward seen as the shot in the arm the new club desperately needed.
But it was the Swans who ambushed and landed Franklin in a monster 9-year deal worth $10 million, surprising the media, AFL and GWS.
And former Swans chairman Richard Colless has detailed how the AFL’s heavy involvement in GWS’s pursuit of Franklin violated the rules they created for the free agency market.
“Lance wanted to do one of two things: stay in Hawthorn or play with the Swans,” Colless told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The AFL, in violation of every rule they had just created regarding the free hand, dealt directly with Lance and his manager and attempted to lure him to GWS.
“The AFL felt they had superior bargaining power and felt that he should go there because they were keen to accelerate the success of GWS.
“It was nonsense, and it remains so. If you think that the best players of all time go to the lower clubs to get more money, you’ve lost touch with world sport. He just didn’t want to go there.’
Swans managed to gamp GWS thanks in large part to the strong relationship between Franklin manager Liam Pickering and Sydney coach John Longmire.
Pickering was Longmire’s best man at his wedding and he contacted CEO Andrew about a possible move, surprising the chairman.
“It’s important that this is understood: we didn’t instigate it,” Colless added. “We didn’t know about it until Lance’s manager Liam Pickering reached out to Andrew Ireland.”
Franklin received a medical in Sydney during the 2013 season, but no one outside the club got a whiff of the looming seismic deal.
What followed was an incredibly fruitful nine years in New South Wales for Franklin, which could conclude with a premiership at MCG tomorrow.
He recently penned a one-year extension at the club and took the opportunity to attack the ‘knockers’ who doubted he would go through with the deal.
“Yes, there have been many knocks over the years, haven’t there?” he said. “A lot of people are knocking that I won’t make it, I won’t make it. That I would play four or five years and that would be all. I definitely proved them wrong, didn’t I?’