Emerging St Kilda star Max King and Melbourne matchwinner Christian Petracca received the most nominations among club bosses asked which rival player they would most like to have on their list.
Three club bosses nominated both players in The Age’s anonymous survey, which 16 of the 18 clubs participated in.
Saints forward Max King.is a player opposition clubs would love on their listCredit:Getty Images
King, who played his 50th game in round 12, is shaping up as the game’s best key forward among generation next and is tied to St Kilda until the end of 2026 after signing a lucrative contract last season.
He is the type of player every club seeks as they look to lock in a strong, marking tall forward to build a premiership tilt around. The 21-year-old has made a flying start to his career with 95 goals in 51 games, but he remains a work in progress as he becomes stronger and his goalkicking accuracy becomes more consistent.
Last year, the Demons extended Petracca’s contract until the end of 2029 and then watched him lead them to a drought-breaking premiership with a best-on-ground performance in the grand final.
He was one of three Demons nominated, with two clubs picking Clayton Oliver as the one player from a rival club they would like to add, while one club boss nominated forward-ruck Luke Jackson.
Oliver is contracted until the end of next season, when he will be a restricted free agent. He signed the contract before he won the best and fairest in a premiership year, while Jackson is out of contract and attracting interest from Western Australian clubs keen to lure him home.
Only one club nominated Richmond champion Dustin Martin, with the veteran still held in high esteem, while two Magpies at either end of the risk spectrum, Darcy Moore and Jordan De Goey, also featured.
Moore is on a long-term deal while De Goey’s future at Collingwood remains uncertain despite expressing a desire to remain with the Magpies.
Oliver and Petracca were the only two players nominated who finished in the top 10 of last year’s Brownlow Medal count, with stars such as Carlton’s Charlie Curnow, Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh, the Brisbane Lions’ Lachie Neale, the Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli, Geelong’s Tom Stewart and Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw overlooked.
Opposition captains nominated Bontempelli, Oliver, Neale, Petracca, Cripps and the Giants’ Josh Kelly as the likely 2022 Brownlow medallist in their pre-season predictions.
There was little appetite for clubs being able to place the salary of such marquee players outside the salary cap, a mechanism which would allow the stars to earn more but would also favour wealthier clubs and distort equalisation measures.
Nine of the 16 bosses said they were against such as system while five said they would support the change. Two club bosses said they were undecided. Such a change would need to be agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement, with the move unlikely.
One club boss summed up the sentiment of those opposed to its introduction when they said there were “too many one-off exceptions to the salary cap and the soft cap. When we sign off on a system, we should sign off on it”.
Two club bosses took the opportunity to comment on whether senior coaches should have part of their wage sit outside the football department soft cap, with both strongly opposing such a move.
“Clubs shouldn’t be able to pay the million-dollar coach outside the soft cap either. Change the amount in the soft cap but don’t put the coach outside,” one club boss said.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan had suggested that a senior coach’s wage sit outside the salary cap, but it was rejected by clubs with the AFL forecasting a small increase to the soft cap in discussions with club bosses last week.
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