Suns boss takes aim at AFL 'disaster'

The Suns are struggling to match the competition's heavyweights.
The Suns are struggling to match the competition's heavyweights.

GOLD Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane has slammed free agency in the AFL, saying it has ruined equalisation and created a situation where strong clubs take advantage of weaker ones.

In a week where the futures of two of the Suns' highest profile players Tom Lynch and Steven May have been put under the microscope, Cochrane said the system is unfair and doesn't support struggling sides.

The Suns are yet to make the finals in their eight-year history and are second from bottom on the ladder with just four wins from 17 games in 2018.

Free agent Lynch hasn't recommitted to the club and is attracting interest from rivals - such as Collingwood and Richmond - who are keen to sign the forward while speculation is rife fellow co-captain May is also a chance to leave, although he says he will see out his contract before assessing his options at the end of next season.

It would be a devastating blow for the Gold Coast to lose arguably their two best players so soon after Gary Ablett returned to Geelong and would set the club back on its path to establishing credibility in the league.

Cochrane criticised the lack of compensation for weaker clubs who lose stars to stronger clubs.

Tony Cochrane wants the system to change.
Tony Cochrane wants the system to change.

"We say we have equalisation in play when really you do not at all, because free agency slaughters that and the draft system is slaughtered by it," Cochrane said.

"You cannot say to people you have competitive balance and equalisation and then have this system that lets players go from weaker clubs to the strong.

"Either be honest and say it's a free-for-all and everyone have a crack, or have an equalisation system. Just be honest, do you want a free-for-all free agency or do you want equalisation? Because you have neither at the moment and it's a disaster.

"The only free agents who walk now are free agents who leave lower clubs and go to stronger clubs."

Cochrane also said the state of free agency has the potential to be a "massive long-term problem for the AFL" if young guns scooped up in the draft are allowed to leave as soon as they become free agents.

The Suns know all too well the pain of losing promising youngsters who have left for greener pastures for one reason or another after being drafted to the Gold Coast.

Josh Caddy tasted premiership success with the Tigers after leaving the Suns.
Josh Caddy tasted premiership success with the Tigers after leaving the Suns.

Former Rising Star winner Jaeger O'Meara now plies his trade for Hawthorn while Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy both became premiership players with Richmond last year.

"Look at the bottom four of the last five years it is the same culprits, the same names cropping up," Cochrane said.

"You have to give people hope, you don't give them hope if you give them draft picks and they then just leave as free agents to stronger clubs."

Cochrane also warned the AFL runs the risk of becoming like the English Premier League where the powerhouses get stronger while the weak get weaker if adequate compensation for those clubs losing players can't be implemented.

"It is rewarding the strong clubs and punishing the poor," he said.

However, AFL Players Association boss Paul Marsh says free agency isn't related to equalisation and suggested Cochrane's outburst an "over-reaction".

Tom Lynch is tipped to leave the Suns. Picture: AAP
Tom Lynch is tipped to leave the Suns. Picture: AAP

"We are looking at about just over two free agents that move in a given year, so this year we have got 51 free agents and if the trends of the last few years continue, two of those players, or maybe a couple more, will move," Marsh said.

"We do spent a lot of time talking about this issue and the stats at this point are not showing that it is the armageddon that everyone is talking it up to be.

"There are other measures in our competition that do promote equalisation.

"Free agency was never brought in as an equalisation measure, it was about freedom of choice for players and what is a basic human right, that after eight years, a player can move to a club of their choice.

"We have got a salary cap that is built into the model, so it's not like one club can just stockpile all the best talent."