AFL fans and pundits are questioning the validity of the rookie draft after the Melbourne Demons de-listed Jake Melksham on Tuesday. The 32-year-old was a key contributor for the Demons in 2023 but suffered a devastating ACL injury in the final round of the regular season.
On Tuesday the club announced that Melksham had been de-listed, but they promised to re-select the forward in the AFL rookie draft later this month. It means Melksham will remain at the club in 2024 for his 15th season in the AFL.
But questions are being asked as to whether the Demons' actions serve the true purpose of the rookie draft. Taylor Duryea is in the same situation with the Western Bulldogs, who will pick him back up later this month despite de-listing him.
One pundit wrote: "All these AFL clubs delisting players and committing to re-listing them as rookies. That's not what the rookie list was supposed to be for. Ever. The rookie list should be for players who haven't had a chance at all yet."
Another added: "The AFL would argue the rookie draft was intended to broaden the pathways to a career. Unfortunately it has never thought laterally enough to consider and close loopholes before they are exploited."
While a third wrote: "You can’t blame clubs for using it as a mechanism though. AFL has left the door wide open for them."
Speaking about Melksham's injury on the eve of the finals, Demons coach Simon Goodwin said: "Looking at an ACL, which is really sad for Melky. It takes a really big dent in the day. I've coached Jake for a long time, 14 years, and he's just craving the opportunity to play in a successful team in finals footy."
So unfair to rookie him after his performance last year!
— LS Fish15 🇦🇺🏳️🌈 (@LS__Fish) October 31, 2023
The afl would argue the rookie draft was intended to broaden the pathways to a career..unfortunately it has never thought laterally enough to consider and close loopholes before they are exploited.
— NMFC 18 (@nmfc_18) October 31, 2023
Oh for sure. Not blaming the clubs at all. It's the AFL that has left this door open for them.
— Matt (@Mattys123) October 31, 2023
Yep it's all so silly
— Matt (@Mattys123) October 31, 2023
Exactly - but can’t blame clubs for exploiting what the rules allow!! AFL need to step in and change the set up of the lists and limit what clubs can and can’t do in this space!! 🤷♂️
— Shan Van (@Goose19PAFC) October 31, 2023
Clayton Oliver ready to knuckle down amid off-field turmoil
Meanwhile, Clayton Oliver has revealed he would have accepted a trade if the Demons had decided they wanted to move him, but is now determined to knuckle down and meet the standards demanded by the club. Oliver's professionalism has repeatedly been called into question amid doubts over his future at Melbourne, despite being contracted until 2030.
The 26-year-old said on Tuesday that he always wanted to stay, and Goodwin earlier revealed that Melbourne didn't genuinely consider trading him. "If they didn't want me (I'd have been open to leaving)," Oliver told the Seven Network.
"Obviously I did not want to leave. I love the boys, I love the club and I love 'Goody'. I probably owe my career to him so I'd never leave someone who has been so loyal to me. I just want to put my best foot forward for the club, be the best teammate I can be and be the best person I can be for the Melbourne Football Club."
Demons CEO Gary Pert said the club have shifted to a "tough love" approach with Oliver, and Goodwin echoed that sentiment. "It's a very complex situation that we've got going on with Clayton and clearly those challenges have been ongoing for multiple years," Goodwin told SEN radio.
"We're working incredibly closely with Clayton right now and building the best people around him, and care around him, to deal with his complex personal issues. What Clayton needs to be really clear on is that we now have some minimum standards of behaviour that we want him to adhere to, and if he can't come along with our culture, there will be some consequences."
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