Why teams aren't panicking about PSP … and who might move

THIRTEEN. That's the number that will shape the new priority signing period (PSP).

Introduced by the AFL as a method to provide assistance to last year's expansion clubs, an initial read of the rules (e.g. up to five players can leave a top-four side) looked somewhat alarming.

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But across the four clubs, only 13 players in total will be able to be signed as a PSP player (two at Essendon, three each at Hawthorn and Port Adelaide and five at Sydney), with the rules allowing anyone who has played at least three AFLW seasons to be classified as such.

That player can walk to an expansion club, with a trade not needing to be made.

Scott Gowans addresses Sydney's players during their match against North Melbourne in AFLW S7. Picture: AFL Photos

Compensation – in the form of picks for the draft ahead of the 2024 season – will be decided upon by the AFL at the conclusion of the PSP period.

There are question marks over the number of tier one payment slots (a maximum of two) still available at expansion clubs, with the vast majority believed to have already been filled last year in the initial list builds.

It means PSP players are much more likely to be tier three players looking to move to tier two, with the odd exception like the potential Chloe Molloy switch to Sydney.

Chloe Molloy kicks the ball during Collingwood's elimination final against the Western Bulldogs in S7, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

A few clubs were bemused by 10th-place Essendon receiving assistance, and felt for the likes of St Kilda and West Coast who finished in the lower rungs of the ladder and did not have access to nearly as much assistance ahead of their second seasons.

But others weren't as surprised, pointing to the "softer" nature of Essendon's draw having possibly led to still being in the finals race at the tail end of the season.

There's a sense of resignation and rolling with the punches among the older AFLW teams, tinged with a touch of frustration at an unexpected "fifth round" of expansion, but some confidently said they would back themselves in to retain their talent.

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In fact, the compensation may end up being a blessing in disguise, offering the chance to move on older players who may not be in the next premiership tilt and receive access to elite junior talent in return.

There is a danger that removing talent from the top sides may somewhat dilute the quality of matches, but it is offset by the long-term gain of lifting the bottom few sides.

Sydney players look dejected as they leave the field after their defeat in round seven against Gold Coast at Henson Park on October 8, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

There were ticks from rival clubs for the extra list spots afforded to Sydney and Port Adelaide, with the view that more players in the AFLW system will also benefit the competition going forward.

There was also understanding as to Sydney being able to offer longer-term deals (up to four years instead of the current maximum of two), given the need for the Swans to attract interstate players as the New South Wales talent pool develops – although Greater Western Sydney would be justified in maybe feeling slightly miffed it cannot do the same.

All in all, clubs are simply looking for longer term clarity to assist with list management and planning, having continually adjusted to new trade rules for the past six years.