In the zone: Suns' dawn gives Queensland draftees a choice

QUEENSLAND footballers will have a choice to make when nominating for the 2019 NAB AFLW draft, with zones being introduced to the state for the first time. 

The addition of Gold Coast for the 2020 season will see players have two options: either nominate for the zone they live in, or for the whole of Queensland (allowing them to be drafted by either Brisbane or the Suns).

Broadly speaking, the Suns have access to players based in the north of the state and in the area around the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales, while the Lions' zone is in the south.

The draft itself will be held on Tuesday, October 22 at 10.30am in the Victoria Pavilion at Melbourne Showgrounds, with nominations now open until September 20. 

Expansion clubs Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast were able to sign seven open-age players from their Academies or state league sides from April till August 30. 

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But a newly introduced rule will allow expansion teams to nominate Academy players for the draft, although opposition clubs can bid on those players and force the original side to match with their next available pick.

It's a similar arrangement to the father-daughter rule.

A fictional example would see St Kilda wishing to add Sally Smith from its VFLW side. The Magpies would also like to draft Smith, telling the Saints they want to draft her with their pick 30. If the Saints still wish to draft Smith, they must take her with their next pick, whether that be pick 31 or 67.

Alana Woodward is the first player to be elevated using this rule, the Richmond midfielder and leadership group member has been pre-selected with the Tigers' final draft pick with no other clubs placing a bid.

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Following the draft, a small free agency window will be open until Friday, October 25 for clubs that have spots available, with final list lodgements to be made on Thursday, October 31. 

Pre-season is due to start in November on a yet-to-be-determined date.

Potential Victorian draftees will continue to choose either Geelong, Melbourne metro (all clubs excluding the Cats) or the whole of the state, as was the case last year.  

With the AFL Women's competition still a part-time pursuit and training held in the evenings, the draft zones have been brought in to cut down on travel time and costs for players who cannot afford to relocate to be closer to their clubs. 

The introduction of the Suns to the competition has already seen a number of Gold Coast-based Brisbane players change teams, including former skipper Leah Kaslar, Lauren Bella and Tori Groves-Little. 

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The AFLW draft is state-based, allowing players to nominate for a particular state (again, to avoid relocation where possible for a six-month program), with Victoria and now Queensland the only pools to be split further into zones. 

Players who nominate for Tasmania's draft are eligible to be drafted by North Melbourne, which has a training base and a coach in the state.

Adelaide previously had an arrangement with the Northern Territory, but that association has ended. It is believed the Suns will now align with the Territory, but that is yet to be confirmed. 

The AFLW Draft Combine will run from October 1-3 at the MCG and Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne.