28/02/2024

The AFLW's new PSP system has many clubs wondering what they will get in return for their star players. Picture: Sydney Swans

While the AFLW’s expansion clubs are celebrating the arrival of some of the league’s best players, their former teams have been left to wonder what they will get in return for their stars.

The introduction of the Priority Signing Period (PSP) has dramatically altered the make up of the league, with Sydney, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn and Essendon given the power once again to sign players without needing to trade for them.

Out of the eight players who were signed during the PSP, five of them are All-Australians.

Other accolades shared between them include an AFLW best and fairest, leading a season in goalkicking, a Rising star award and club best and fairests.

These players would demand top draft picks in a trade, but not much is known about the value of the compensation their formers teams will receive in return.

All the league has said is the AFLW List committee will determine any “relevant compensation” after the PSP finishes and any compensation draft picks will be for the 2024 draft.

That’s because this year’s draft is a one-off supplementary draft consisting of only mature-age players due to there being two seasons in 2022.

Port Adelaide added elite talls Ash Woodland and Janelle Cuthbertson as part of the PSP. Picture: Port Adelaide Football Club

But while there is no known framework to determine what picks clubs will be given, looking at the history of the league and compensation given out in previous expansion signing windows could indicate what they should expect.

If some of those past trends continue, supporters might be left disappointed over what their stars will be worth.

Draft compensation in the AFLW:

Each time the AFLW has grown, the league has introduced expansion signing periods where new clubs can bring in players from other teams.

These windows are similar to free agency in the men’s competition, with teams not needing to trade for the players they signed. 

In 2018 and 2019 established clubs were given draft compensation if they lost players to expansion, but no compensation picks were given out last year.

In 2018 the league said compensation for expansion signings was determined “relative to the total value of players they (established clubs) have lost”.

It is known whether the AFLW’s list committee also uses a framework or metrics when deciding this compensation.

The men’s competition, for example, determines free agency pick compensation by using the size of the contract the departing player received and where the team finished on the ladder.

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The PSP system also differs from how the league has previously helped new AFLW clubs who struggled in their early seasons. 

In the past these teams were given special assistance by the AFL commission, which included compensation picks (sometimes with the provision that they must be traded for a senior player), list concessions and the ability to pre-list mature players.

The reasoning behind creating a second consecutive signing window for Port, Essendon, Hawthorn and Sydney was that those clubs had less time to build their lists last year when compared to past expansion teams.

The league is looking to help the expansion clubs after three of them finished in the bottom four last season. Picture: WomensAFL/Website

Past AFLW expansion compensation:

2018 expansionDepartures to Geelong and North Melbourne as expansion signingsCompensation in return
Collingwood·       Jess Duffin
·       Jasmine Garner
·       Moana Hope
·       Emma King
Start of second round draft compensation, Pick 13 (Mikala Cann).
Also the ability to use picks 29 and 70 to pre-select players (Sophie Alexander and Erica Fowler)
Western Bulldogs·       Jenna Bruton
·       Emma Kearney
·       Daria Bannister
·       Aasta O’Connor
Start of third round draft compensation, Pick 26 (Kate Bartlett)
Melbourne·       Richelle Cranston
·       Melissa Hickey
·       Erin Hoare   
·       Anna Teague
Start of fourth round draft compensation, Pick 37 (traded to Adelaide)
Carlton·       Kate Gillespie-Jones
·       Danielle Hardiman
Start of fifth round draft compensation, Pick 49 (passed)
Brisbane·       Tahlia Randall
·       Jamie Stanton
·       Kaitlyn Ashmore
Two extra spots on its rookie list
Greater Western Sydney·       Madeleine Boyd
·       Phoebe McWilliams
One extra spot on its rookie list
Star Roo Jasmine Garner was one of the many players who joined the club for its inaugural season. Picture: NMFC
2019 expansionDepartures to West Coast, Gold Coast, St Kilda and RichmondCompensation in return
Brisbane·       Tori Groves-Little
·       Paige Parker
·       Sam Virgo    
·       Jacqui Yorston       
·       Lauren Bella 
·       Leah Kaslar 
·       Emma Pittman
·       Nat Exon
Start of second round draft compensation, Pick 20 (Lucy Bellinger)  
Western Bulldogs·       Katie Brennan
·       Selena Karlson
·       Tiarna Ernst
·       Belinda Smith
Start of second round draft compensation, Pick 24 (traded to St Kilda)
Fremantle·       Dana Hooker
·       Ashlee Atkins         
·       Melissa Caulfield
·       Brianna Green
·       Courtney Guard
·       Parris Laurie
·       Kellie Gibson
·       Alicia Janz
Start of second round draft compensation, Pick 21 (Mim Strom)
Greater Western Sydney·       Emma Swanson
·       Phoebe Monahan
·       Christina Bernardi
·       Maddy Collier
Start of second round draft compensation, Pick 23 (Lisa Steane)
Note: While more clubs lost players to expansion in 2019, these were the only four who received draft compensation

What could this mean for PSP compensation?

When analysing past AFLW expansion draft compensation, there are a couple of key trends which would continue with the PSP.

The first is that clubs only ever received one draft pick as compensation, even in instances where they lost as many as eight players.

This trend would be of the most concern to Brisbane, who were the only club that lost multiple players to the PSP.

While Lions fans are probably thinking that the combined loss of Emily Bates and Greta Bodey should warrant multiple picks, history isn’t on the club’s side after it only got one pick for losing eight players in 2019.

Brisbane is waiting to see what it will get for Premiership duo Emily Bates and Greta Bodey. Picture: AFLW

The second trend was the value of the compensation was often underwhelming when compared to the quality and quantity of players who departed.

While opinions on value will differ from person to person, it would be hard to argue that teams wouldn’t have received more for their players in a traditional trade.

The case could be made the compensation was barely enough for one of Jasmine Garner, Emma Kearney, Emma King, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Katie Brennan, Dana Hooker and Sam Virgo, before even accounting for their other departing teammates.

Even when clubs hit on their picks like Collingwood with tough midfielder Mikala Cann or Fremantle with talented ruck Mim Strom, it was impossible to recoup equal value due to the sheer amount of talent going the other way.

Whether the AFLW list committee follows similar trends this year remains to be seen, but if it does, it could be a further blow to established clubs.

PSP compensation is set to be determined by the league on Friday.

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