Eagles great Glen Jakovich has warned the AFL to lift the draft age or risk seeing more talented youngsters fall “on the scrapheap” by the time they are 21.
Jakovich, who himself was an 18-year-old when he debuted for West Coast back in 1991, believes current draftees are not “physically and mentally ready” for the demands of AFL, and warned youngsters like WA’s Logan McDonald not to expect too much in their first season.
“Too many young players are going into this environment not ready physically and mentally, and we’re going to rush players,” he told Sportsday WA.
“The AFL are clubland, they are trying to do everything in such a short space of time.
“They are in a hurry (because) they draft them and they want to get maximum results out of them in the first two years.
“They get a standard two-year contract and it’s just not enough time.”
Jakovich says he expects rising star McDonald (taken by Sydney with pick four in the AFL Draft) to play a handful of games, but warned the Swans risked burning him out if they pushed too hard.
“Logan McDonald, I hope he gets a taste, plays five or six games and holds his own,” Jakovich predicted.
“But he’s got a lot of growth and development and you’ve got to be careful at clubs how you bring young players in.
“You can’t have him playing 18 games or more next year and expect there’s not going to be any wear or tear on such a young player introduced into a professional program so early in the piece.”
Jakovich wants the draft age lifted until at least 19, and called on the AFL to give more funds to grassroots football so clubs can develop their talented juniors.
“I want players to experience a bit more of life, life experiences, get a job in the real world… spend some more time in the SANFL, WAFL, the local leagues,” he said.
“The under 18s competition can use players more for another 12 months and really give those clubs the responsibility of developing the players and fast-tracking development of the players.
“That’s where the money of the review can go, more to the grassroots and don’t leave it all to the AFL.”
The two-time premiership Eagle says too many players are falling through the cracks because they are pushed too hard as a teenager.
“I’ve got a number of players that are examples through the AFL academy program, they were thrown and thrust into the AFL system way too early, got injuries and lost complete confidence in the system. (They) didn’t like it, didn’t like it at clubland because of the pressure mounting on them to play at AFL level when they were an outstanding junior,” he said.
“Then they are on the scrapheap by 21 years of age when they should be at the peak of their careers.”
A number of AFL coaches have thrown their support behind raising the draft age until at least 19, including Luke Beveridge and Nathan Buckley, while Tigers’ three-time premiership coach Damien Hardwick says he’s prepared to push the draft age to 20.
“For the benefits of the kids coming through in future, I think I could probably go a little bit higher (than 19) … One year out of school is OK but two years would be even better for mine,” Hardwick said on FoxFooty.
“The AFL career only averages out to about three or four years for most, so at least they can fall back onto something.”