Tom Lynch celebrates a goal against Richmond. Pic: Getty Images
Tom Lynch celebrates a goal against Richmond. Pic: Getty Images

Lynch poised to fire free agency debate

TOM Lynch's likely decision to pick Richmond as his next home is set to ignite debate about the merits of free agency as "one of the best players in the competition" moves closer to officially joining the reigning premier.

The Tigers tonight refused to buy into speculation they were over the line in the race to snare Gold Coast's departing free agent Tom Lynch.

Sources close to Lynch also insisted no official decision has been made on where the 25-year-old wants to play next year.

However, it has been widely believed for some time that Lynch sees his future at Punt Road, where he would unite with Jack Riewoldt and a fleet of smalls inside coach Damien Hardwick's forward 50m.

The hottest property in football is recovering from knee surgery on the Gold Coast while the three clubs fighting for his signature embark on finals campaigns.

Tom Lynch seems certain to join the Tigers. Pic: Getty Images
Tom Lynch seems certain to join the Tigers. Pic: Getty Images

Lynch, who last month told the club he wanted to return to Victoria, is undergoing his rehab from a PCL operation under the eye of Gold Coast physios.

Richmond, Collingwood and Hawthorn have waged desperate campaigns to lure the key position goalkicker under free agency rules.

As speculation mounts the Tigers are across the line in their pursuit of Lynch, leading AFL figures are already debating the merits of free agency and whether the system is serving the purpose for what was designed.

"First things first, that's an unbelievable get by Richmond," Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinson said on Fox Footy.

"We've all been thinking that (he'd go to Richmond) anyway, for many, many months … A player like him going to one of the best teams in the competition improves them no end.

"Now (that) will heighten the discussion - should last year's premier and possibly this year's premier pick up one of the best players in the competition under free agency?

"Is that the system that we want?"

Robinson's co-host on Fox Footy, Gerard Whateley, believes a Lynch-to-Richmond outcome could harm the free agency cause.

"It's not how free agency was conceived, it's not how it was sold and it's not how it was implemented, but it was absolutely inevitable that this was going to be the outcome, as it has been everywhere around the world," Whateley said.

St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt praised the Tigers but said free agency was clearly benefiting the competition's stronger clubs.

"You've just got to applaud them, don't you?" Riewoldt said on AFL 360.

"Free agency has clearly worked out much better for the more powerful clubs. That's clear now.

"For all the AFL is trying to do around equalisation this is the antithesis of that, so it's just working in direct contrast to what they're trying to achieve.

 

Lance Franklin seemed set to join the Giants before moving to the Swans. Picture: David Caird
Lance Franklin seemed set to join the Giants before moving to the Swans. Picture: David Caird

 

"But you just have to tip your hat to Richmond. How they're able to squeeze him into a team that's probably going to go back-to-back …"

Former Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy believes several players might be disillusioned if superstar Lynch does join the AFL's best-performed club of the past two years.

"I remember being at the bad end of a year for the Dogs and the news came through that Buddy's gone to the Swans," Murphy recalled.

"I remember sitting at the kitchen bench and it's almost like 'what can you do? What's the point? We're battling, we're trying to pay the salary cap and the Swans can get Buddy for nine years'.

"I can just imagine there's a whole generation of players that sat there today going 'the Tigers can get Tom Lynch?'