The definition of chaos is every AFL club’s social media mentions over the next two weeks.
Behold Trade Period, where everyone loses their minds with the prospect of shiny new toys and a list which can propel them to the promised land.
In my five seasons of having to read the comments while handling North Melbourne’s social media channels, I managed to put together a system which helped me navigate the mountains of coverage I had to consume.
What follows is how to survive the AFL Trade Period in six easy steps.
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1. Pick the sources of information you’ll trust
If this was the NBA, it’d be an easy post. I’d just say to put alerts on for Woj and Shams and you’d be set. Unfortunately, we don’t have their equivalent here yet.
With that in mind, it’s important to establish the people and news outlets you’ll look to for reliable information and ignore anything else. There’ll naturally be different opinions from person to person on who those sources are.
What I would recommend is to think back throughout the year to people who were convinced something would happen, but then were proved wrong shortly after. Rory Sloane and Jeremy McGovern staying at their respective clubs is a good starting point.
2. Ignore any other sources of information
You know those types of Facebook accounts, normally called something like ‘AFL Trade Information_69_ITK’ which says ‘BREAKING: set to be traded’, and has a thousand likes on the post even though no-one reputable has even mentioned his name? Ignore it.
That account on BigFooty with seven posts in five years, and they’re adamant a player is moving because their cousin’s uncle’s nephew’s dad knows someone? It would be wise to not take that information on board.
Twitter accounts which are deliberately set up to spread false information for the sake of fooling people. Don’t take it seriously and see it for what it’s planned to be – a source of laughs directed at those who do fall for it.
The trickiest ones to decipher are people with a platform – radio, TV, website, etc – that you’re unsure about. It’ll likely take trial and error but if you keep an eye on who says what – and how their info plays out – you should be able to sift through what is worthy of paying attention to pretty quickly.
3. Clubs don’t have to make moves
This is a common trap to fall into, and one I used to be all too guilty of – thankfully before I was active on social media.
Essendon and Port Adelaide both made a bunch of moves last year and missed the finals this year. All Collingwood did was bring in an untried Swan and the club jumped from 13th to the Grand Final.
Every club will head into these two weeks with a clear list of targets, most of which have been targeted from a long way out. If your club misses out on its A-graders, would you rather they panic and bring in whoever’s left over no matter what? Or keep their powder dry and reload for the draft and their next opportunity?
The latter may get you high grades in ‘teams who won trade period’, but it’s just as likely to backfire in the long run. Exhibit A being Brisbane’s 2009 haul.
4. Be wary of the games people play
People in influential positions want to use the media to present the best possible version of their story. That shouldn’t be breaking news to anyone, but it is important to keep in mind.
Agents have their journalists they’ll feed information to, journalists have their leanings, clubs will give the side of the story which paints them in the best possible light. To be crystal clear, none of this is intended as criticism. It’s just life. But it does influence what you read and hear.
Here’s a hypothetical situation:
- Club A makes a call to Club B
- Club B asks Club A about the availability of Star Player X
- Club A laughs it off and says no chance
- Conversation on Star Player X ends
Somehow, someway, there’s a report shortly after screaming ‘Star Player X in trade talks!’.
Technically, Star Player X was in a trade talk. But is it actually a realistic chance of happening? Almost definitely not. There’ll be a heap of those situations over the next two weeks, adding to similar circumstances which have already made news.
5. Hypothetical trades are exactly that
There’s no point in getting worked up over a random post, tweet or question which proposes a three-team trade involving nine players, seven draft picks and priority access to Ticketek’s website when finals tickets go on sale.
It’s fun to talk about and discuss, but not something you should give a second thought once the conversation is over.
The only time you should give it serious consideration – to call back to step number one – is if it comes framed as a report from a source of information you’ve decided to trust.
6. Appreciate the absurdity of it all
There’s a simple reason you see so much trade and free agency coverage. It blows everything else out of the water in terms of clicks and views.
Organisations would be foolish not to capitalise on it, and that’s why you see things like trade radio, rolling live blogs, streams, and breathless coverage every time an out-of-contract player steps out of the house.
While it may make you roll your eyes at times, ultimately all the over-the-top language is about whether a player will go from one place to another to kick a football. We’re in a pretty good place if we can afford to devote so much coverage to a sport.