No go zones: NSW, SA unlikely to get protected regions

AFLW Draft nomination zones for New South Wales and South Australia appear unlikely, despite the introduction of Sydney and Port Adelaide to the NAB AFLW competition.

Upon Gold Coast's entry in 2020, both it and Brisbane brought a joint proposal to the AFL to introduce three zones in the already state-based draft – Gold Coast, Brisbane and Queensland as a whole – to assist part-time players.

West Coast and Fremantle chose not to employ academy draft zones, and Port Adelaide and Adelaide look likely to follow their path, with their academy zones attached to an arbitrary split of SANFLW clubs, rather than geographic regions.

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In the case of the Queensland clubs, a number of players – headlined by former skipper Leah Kaslar – moved from Brisbane to the then-fledgling Gold Coast to assist with travel to training following work commitments.

Leah Kaslar celebrates a goal for Gold Coast against Fremantle in R4, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

It's seen by both clubs as a more sustainable model of player retention, given the big and varied workloads upon the players.

Geelong was also granted its own zone for its first few years in the competition, allowing exclusive access to local talent such as Nina Morrison, Liv Purcell and Denby Taylor, with geographic concerns still a factor for the Cats.

Of its 2022 list, just three players – Phoebe McWilliams, Jordy Ivey and Maddy Keryk – resided in Melbourne, with the remaining 28 living down the coast.

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Things are a little trickier in New South Wales this year.

The majority of top talent in the state will be coming from GWS' regional academy zone, and players from those regions (e.g. Canberra and the Riverina) will have to move to Sydney regardless of whether the Swans or Giants draft them.

Understandably, the Giants are keen to have some sort of return on their investment in their academy – especially given last year's first pick Ally Morphett has requested a move to the Swans - while Sydney will benefit more from a single draft pool in its inaugural list build.

Ally Morphett after Greater Western Sydney lost to Adelaide in R7, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Given the lack of consensus, and the fact the Queensland zones were instigated and introduced by the Lions and Suns in a joint proposal, it looks unlikely a similar measure will be brought in for New South Wales.