AFL premiership coach Luke Beveridge says lifting the minimum draft age from 18 is an “absolute no-brainer” decision that should be carried out immediately.
The Western Bulldogs mentor believes football’s coronavirus shutdown, which has put all senior and underage competitions on hold, provided a perfect window in which to implement the change.
“Every other year, as much as I’d advocated for the draft age to be lifted, I was finding it hard to work through how you’d actually do it,” Beveridge told SEN on Tuesday.
“But now because none of the pathway programs are playing and training it just makes absolute sense – if we feel strongly enough about it and the benefits we’ll get from it – to just go ahead and do it.”
This year’s under-18 national carnival could be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, which would leave some players unable to push their cases to be drafted in November.
AFL rules stipulate players must be at least 18 on December 31 in the year they are drafted to be eligible for selection by AFL clubs.
Beveridge said there was also a benefit in separating teenagers’ season of judgement in junior football from their final year of school studies.
“That’s another really important reason to do it,” he said.
“That argument that boys who come out of their under-18 year and then go into maybe the workforce or tertiary studies, (it’s) another year of maturity and another year to prepare for the physical challenge of being an AFL player.
“It all just continues to make sense.”
Beveridge added he was vehemently opposed to proposed reductions in AFL clubs’ playing list sizes, arguing it would act as a disincentive to young players by denying them opportunities at the top level.