If anyone doubts that being drafted to an AFL club dramatically changes a young person’s life, last weekend provided stark evidence to the contrary.

Within hours of their names being called out on Saturday to signal the start of their AFL careers, a number of draftees were already being given painful reminders that they – and their lives – had become very public property.

The problems centred around the online social networking phenomenon MySpace, where some of those drafted on Saturday had listed profiles. As Joe Bloggs, citizen, that’s nothing to worry about. As Joe Bloggs, AFL footballer, it’s quite another matter.

Enterprising fans, always keen to know more about their club’s latest recruits, started entering the names into MySpace. Suddenly, people were getting a close and personal insight into the likes, dislikes and attitudes of the next generation of AFL footballers – and the results weren’t always pretty.

The ones viewed by Crikey were pretty much what you’d expect of active, confident young men (typical example: “I love footy, girls, footy, girls, footy … ahh, girls… oh, and footy. And eating, drinkin (sic), sleeping and hangin (sic) with mates.”) Some didn’t come across as too bright, but that’s neither a crime nor an impediment to an AFL career.

But occasionally they strayed into more dubious territory – expressing their love of things like unprotected sex, binge drinking and even drugs. Whether these kids were simply telling the truth, fuelled by bravado or, as some fan-based wesbites suggested, writing the thing as a joke, it’s not the kind of image that AFL clubs want to project.

So it was no surprise that at least one of these kids had killed his MySpace account – or had it killed for him – by Saturday afternoon.

All of this makes us wonder if any savvy recruiters, always concerned these days with the “character” of the recruits they bring to the club, had bothered to check out MySpace pages before Draft day.

Either way, expect next year’s draftees to be a lot more cautious and conservative with their MySpace profiles.

Our betting would be on a lot less “I love getting drunk and picking up chicks” and a lot more of “I enjoy an occasional drink with meals and certainly admire women , especially those who are clever and stimulating conversationalists, but I don’t really have time to pursue a relationship at the moment because of the time I have to devote to my training.”

That sort of thing might not win them many friends on MySpace, but it will make them a lot more popular with AFL coaches.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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