Salary cap equality? Too little, too late

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has confirmed salary cap concessions will be scrapped in 2017.

Speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 last night, McLachlan said sides like Greater Western Sydney, who have received concessions since their conception, will now have the “same salary cap as every other team”.

According to the Herald Sun, GWS have an extra $760,000 in their salary cap in 2016 as part of start-up concessions. A further $600,000 is also included as a ‘cost of living allowance’.

These extra provisions in the salary cap, as well as their fortuitous academy zoning, have undoubtedly allowed GWS to become so successful in such a short amount of time. After all, the Giants have only been in the competition for five years and yet they are on their way to a potential grand final berth.

But groups of external AFL supporters view the Giants unfavourably. Many believe the side has been gifted the chance of a possible premiership.

But while the support might not be there, McLachlan believes hard work and strategic list management is the real reason for the Giant’s success.

“There is extraordinary talent on that list that some teams can never execute to get,” McLachlan said. “But on the flip side, I think a lot of credit needs to go to people at the club who have used the system incredibly well. They’ve drafted well, they’ve traded well.”

Their aggressiveness and ‘team mentality’ was also highlighted.

“I look at them and to the success in development, but I look at them and the hunger they have before a game and they’ve developed a culture beyond the talent,” McLachlan said. “They’re an aggressive, tight group and that’s more than talent.”

But those terms can be applied just as easily to their opposition. And unlike GWS, this side has not been given their opportunity on a silver platter.

The Western Bulldogs are the darlings of the AFL. In 2016, they continued to overcome adversity. They battled through a ridiculous amount of injuries over the course of the season to finish seventh.

They have then gone on to defy history in their two consecutive finals wins. An away win in Perth was unprecedented. A solid win against the three-time reigning premiers Hawthorn was even more so.

Everybody loves a good underdog. The Dogs fit the build in more ways than one.

Their one and only premiership was all the way back in 1954. They have also lost their last seven preliminary finals, dating back to 1984.

Western Bulldogs supporters, players and administrators have been through a tough six decades of longing and despair. GWS haven’t even been in the league for six years.

The determination and passion of the Dogs is exciting. But it’s possible that this will only materialise no further than mere hope. After all, the home venue, a week’s rest, and pure talent means there’s a very strong chance that GWS will win.

In a league striving for equality across the board, that certainly won’t be a good look. One of the older teams being run over by the youngest members of the league does not signal a fair competition.

So yes, it’s great that there will finally be an ‘even’ playing field come 2017 when salary cap concessions are scrapped.

But GWS’ rise and dominance this year is proof enough that the changes are too little, too late.

(First published on The Roar on September 23rd 2016)

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