OVENS and Murray greats Jim Sandral and Mick Bone have slammed the AFL, saying it has given young players a false sense of worth — and country football has suffered as a result.
The Hall of Famers used yesterday’s induction launch to voice concern about the lack of young talent staying in the area, forcing most clubs to fork out big dollars for imported players.
Bone, a revered figure at Wodonga, said AFL clubs took too many players from the bush and took them too early.
“The AFL buggered up,” the always forthright Bulldogs’ champion said.
“They take these kids too young and put it in their head how good they are, and they don’t want to come back. It’s as simple as that.
“They take them when they aren’t ready to go down and put them out in the VFL somewhere and they’re lost to us.”
Melbourne premiership player Sandral, who was upgraded to legend status by the O and M last year, agreed.
“They pick the eyes out of the clubs up here and take them down too young,” Sandral said.
“They should be made to farm them back to the club they came from.
“It’s not right to take them and farm them out to association clubs around Melbourne.
“A lot of them never come back, which is a shame.”
Yarrawonga icon Ken “Pascoe” Ellis said it wasn’t just AFL clubs pillaging the league’s young talent from an early stage.
The financial emergence of clubs in lower leagues had also had an impact.
“I call them CBCs — cheque book coaches — in the district leagues,” Ellis said.
“They’re coming in and paying our thirds $150, $200 a game to go play in their bloody thirds.
“Where’s the justice in that?
“It’s given those kids a false impression of their own ability and when they can’t make it, they’re lost to football.”
Ellis said he was unsure how to solve the problem, but suggested restrictions on clearing underage players between clubs.
“It’s a very hairy discussion,” he said.