Damien Hardwick's angry response as debate erupts over 'whingeing' AFL state

The Suns coach has denied being involved in any behind the scenes draft negotiation.

Damien Hardwick pictured with AFL draft selection Jed Walter.
Damien Hardwick has been left fuming at the wild accusation of making a behind closed doors deal. Image: Getty

Damien Hardwick has been left fuming at an accusation that he was involved in a 'wink-wink' deal in the AFL draft. The opening night of the draft saw numerous picks being traded in live deals as well as multiple bids offered throughout the evening.

One deal that came under the microscope was the Gold Coast Suns matching a bid from North Melbourne on academy star Jed Walter, a highly touted forward. The Kangaroos had Pick 2 and 3 and used Pick 2 to select Tasmanian midfielder Colby McKercher before selecting Walter at 3.

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Fox Sports Australia called out the Roos for not using their first pick on Walter, as it would have resulted in the Suns having to use more draft collateral to match the bid. The media outlet wrote: "Gold Coast landed four first-round prospects for very little" and suggested that if they were bidding for the player with Pick 3, there was “absolutely no reason” why they should not have selected him as Pick 2.

Will Graham, Ethan Read, Jed Walter and Jake Rogers.
Gold Coast Suns draft picks Will Graham, Ethan Read, Jed Walter and Jake Rogers. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

"The suggestion is there was a wink-wink element to the deal; whether the Suns explicitly asked the Roos not to bid on Walter with their first pick, or if it was an unspoken element of the deal, we’ll never know," Fox Sports Australia wrote. The Suns' new coach didn't take well to the allegation that a behind-the-scenes arrangement had been made when the club’s traded picks in October. Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, Dimma responded to Fox Footy's tweet saying: “Be better” with an emoji of begging hands and face-palming.

Gold Coast's account also replied to the tweet saying: “Death, taxes and Victorians having a whinge". The replies to the tweet kicked off a fierce debate on social media, with many suggesting Gold Coast were gifted top draft prospects, while others said the anger towards the club was atypical of the media bias towards Victorian clubs.

AFL's controversial next generation academies

The Next Generation Academies (NGA) system has been a major talking point around the national draft on Monday and Tuesday night. The Eagles have come out and said they want a 'discussion' on how it works moving forward after losing highly-rated academy prospect Lance Collard to St Kilda in the national draft. Collard was snapped up by St Kilda at pick 28 and he was just one of several to be taken in the first 40 picks.

The Suns, as one of the four northern clubs, were able to recruit four academy players in the first round. Under AFL rules, the other 14 clubs can not stop rival clubs from poaching their NGA players if they are nominated inside the first 40 selections.

The academies are designed to nurture junior talent from Indigenous or multicultural backgrounds - essentially, a non-traditional pathway for players. However, outside the four Queensland/NSW clubs, there's growing frustration about the potential for losing academy talent inside the first 40 selections - as there's nothing those 14 teams can do about it.

"It's certainly worth discussion. We see again (on Tuesday) night that players were taken inside 40," Eagles list boss Rohan O'Brien said. "It's really frustrating when you've done a lot of work with those players." "We understand the rules and the objective behind trying to keep things equal, but if you're going to have the NGAs, and you're going to do the work with the players, we feel it's time for a real discussion around what that might look like."

with AAP

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