Pre-season training for aspiring AFL players is going to be starting a lot earlier at Punt Rd from now on. About eight years earlier, in fact.

If Richmond coach Terry Wallace has his way, he’ll be inviting the progeny of former Tigers to be part of a proposed player development academy that could see kids as young as ten pulling on the boots for a kick.

Wallace has always been an innovator. After all, this is the bloke who pioneered the winter man-tan throughout the AFL season long before you could buy that spray-on stuff.

This, however, is his boldest move yet. Not so much the idea of a junior academy (every European football club worth its round balls has nappy-wearing prodigies on its books) more the fact that he thinks he can find enough thoroughbreds among the children of the scores of Tigers from the last two decades who have pulled on the yellow and black jumper throughout one of the club’s leanest periods.

But it could be a smart move from Wallace. Increasingly, the sons of former greats are proving that they carry the “footy gene”. Some, like Carlton’s Marc Murphy and Geelong youngster Tom Hawkins, look capable of topping their dads’ achievements.

And if the rules remain as they are, a top gun, son of a gun comes cheap. Geelong only had to give up pick 41 for Hawkins, who was considered a certain top ten pick in this year’s draft.

The father-son rule remains an anomaly in a competition that has been revolutionised by the AFL’s brand of sporting socialism. The draft, the equalisation fund and a manufactured draw allows the politburo at Docklands to engineer the competition to its liking.

Except if your dad played 100 games for one of the clubs, that is. Then the rules don’t apply.

And then there is the conundrum of the post-VFL clubs who have long hated the advantage the rule has afforded the older clubs.

It’s a nonsense rule. If Andrew Demetriou and friends want a little romance in their lives I suggest a Barry White CD, a quiet night at home with a decent bottle of wine with their significant other and the rest is up to them.

They should keep the cheap sentiment of the father-son rule out of the game.

Peter Fray

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