The Australian Football League draft is the annual draft of unsigned players, especially new nominations, by Australian rules football teams that participate in the main competition of that sport, the Australian Football League (AFL).


When the competition was known as the Victorian Football League (VFL), the league introduced the first incarnation of a draft system in 1981, where teams had two selections each of interstate players determined by reverse finishing position order.[1]

The draft was introduced as an equalisation strategy in response to the increasing transfer fees and player salaries at the time, which in combination with declining attendances threatened to derail the league. It was also a result of the failure of country zoning, introduced in 1967, which had led to a systematic inequality whereby the clubs with the best zones, like Carlton and Hawthorn, could dominate over clubs with poorer zones like Melbourne.

In 1986, the first of the modern VFL Drafts was held. The draft was run in conjunction to the existing zone system. Players from West Australian Football League and the new West Coast Eagles were excluded from the 1986 draft, with the Eagles able to recruit up to 35 West Australian players with no more than 6 players from any single WAFL club. The other new club for the 1987 VFL season, the Brisbane Bears, received 6 concessionary picks before the other clubs and exclusive access to all Queensland based players.

Since then, the rules associated with priority picks, zone allocations, the father–son rule, mid-year, pre-season and rookie drafts, expansion clubs concessions and trading of players and picks have been frequently changed, but the basic premise of draft being an equalisation measure to assist the poorer performed teams has remained.


In the AFL draft, clubs receive picks based on the position in which they finish on the ladder during the season. The draft is held each year at the end of November, to allow the draftees to finish their school examinations before being drafted.[2]


From the 2009 draft, players must be at least 18 years of age on 31 December in the year in which they are drafted, so that players who turn 18 during their first months of Year 12 will be able to finish studying without the pressure of AFL. This was increased over the past few years due to concerns about school age players potentially having to leave home to play football interstate.[3]

A selection of approximately 50 players are chosen to attend the annual AFL Draft Combine at the conclusion of the AFL season, prior to the National Draft. Further smaller scale state screenings are held around the country in the weeks after the national combine.

Priority draft pick rule

Main article: Priority draft pick

The priority draft picks were first introduced in the 1993 AFL Draft as a special assistance rule to aid teams that consistently perform poorly to obtain additional early draft selections.

Under the rules in place since the 2012 season, priority draft picks are given out to struggling teams at the discretion of the AFL Commission. This replaced a system in which a priority draft pick was automatically given to team whose win–loss record fell below a pre-defined value; this had become controversial, and there were accusations by commentators that teams out of finals contention would tank at the end of the season to gain access to the additional draft picks, although the AFL itself never brought such accusations against any club.[4]

Father–son rule

Main article: Father–son rule

To continue the traditions of association that a family has with a particular club, sons of former players are able to be selected by the same club as their father played with under the father–son rule.

For clubs with an established history in the VFL/AFL (20 years or more), the father must have played at least 100 games for the club to be eligible for the father/son rule; clubs with no long term history in the league (such as the Western Australian and South Australian clubs) have different eligibility criteria based on their state leagues.

Under current rules, players eligible under the father–son rule are selected in a bidding system prior to the draft. Firstly, any club in the league may nominate a draft pick with which it intends to take the eligible son; then, if the father's club wishes to draft the son, it must use its next available draft pick, after the highest bidder.[5]

Earlier versions of the father–son rule allowed the sons to be recruited automatically, without need for the draft, or allowed the club to recruit the son using a third round draft pick. The father–son rule itself was introduced in 1959, more than two decades prior to the draft, and it could be used to contravene zoning rules.

In 2017, the second season of the AFL women's competition the AFL introduced a father–daughter rule, where a daughter could be drafted if the father played one game at the club.[6]

Expansion clubs

Each time the competition expands, the AFL give special priority to the new club, with the new club receiving numerous high draft picks.


For most of its existence, the National Draft has been held at a large function or convention centre with many of the predicted top draft selections in attendance.

Since 1993, the National draft has been televised live, pick-by-pick, while the mid-year (1990–1993), pre-season and rookie drafts have never been televised.

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2015)
Draft Date held Host city Venue
1981 8 October 1981 Melbourne, Victoria VFL House
1982 19 October 1982 Melbourne, Victoria VFL House
1986 26 November 1986 Melbourne, Victoria VFL House
1987 11 November 1987 Melbourne, Victoria VFL House
1988 9 November 1988 Melbourne, Victoria VFL House
1989 9 November 1989 Melbourne, Victoria VFL House
1990 7 November 1990 Melbourne, Victoria AFL House
1991 6 November 1991
1992 11 November 1992
1993 29 October 1993 Melbourne, Victoria Radisson President Hotel
1994 28 October 1994 Melbourne, Victoria Radisson President Hotel
1995 8 December 1995
1996 25 October 1996
1997 31 October 1997 Adelaide, South Australia Football Park
1998 1 November 1998 Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne Park Function Centre
1999 31 October 1999 Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne Park Function Centre
2000 29 October 2000
2001 25 November 2001 Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne Park Function Centre
2002 23 November 2002 Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne Park Function Centre
2003 22 November 2003 Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne Park Function Centre
2004 20 November 2004 Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne Park Function Centre
2005 26 November 2005 Melbourne, Victoria Docklands Stadium
2006 25 November 2006 Melbourne, Victoria Docklands Stadium
2007 24 November 2007 Melbourne, Victoria Docklands Stadium
2008 29 November 2008 Melbourne, Victoria Docklands Stadium
2009 26 November 2009 Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
2010 18 November 2010 Gold Coast, Queensland Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
2011 24 November 2011 Sydney, New South Wales Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre
2012 22 November 2012 Gold Coast, Queensland Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
2013 21 November 2013 Gold Coast, Queensland Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
2014 27 November 2014 Gold Coast, Queensland Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
2015 22 November 2015 Adelaide, South Australia Adelaide Convention Centre
2016 25 November 2016 Sydney, New South Wales Hordern Pavilion
2017 24 November 2017 Sydney, New South Wales Hordern Pavilion
2018 22 November 2018 Melbourne, Victoria Marvel Stadium
2019 27 November 2019 Melbourne, Victoria Marvel Stadium
2021 24 November 2021 Melbourne, Victoria Marvel Stadium

Number one draft picks


As of 2018, the number one draft pick was allocated to the last-placed team from the previous season, or an expansion team in its first draft, in 28 of the 35 drafts.

Years where this was not the case are:

Despite the expectations of the number one pick, not all have forged successful VFL/AFL careers. Adam Cooney, the first pick of the 2003 AFL draft, was the first number one draft pick to be awarded the prestigious Brownlow Medal (in 2008). In the same year, Luke Hodge, the number one pick in 2001, won the Norm Smith Medal with Hawthorn. No number one selection has been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

The following is a list of the number one overall draft picks since the draft's inception in 1981:

Draft Player Selected by Recruited from League recruited from
1981 Alan Johnson Melbourne Perth WAFL
1982 Andrew Purser Footscray East Fremantle WAFL
1986 Martin Leslie Brisbane Bears Port Adelaide Magpies SANFL
1987 Richard Lounder Richmond Central District SANFL
1988 Alex McDonald Hawthorn Ballarat YCW Ballarat Football League
1989 Anthony Banik Richmond Won Wron Woodside Alberton Football League
1990 Stephen Hooper Geelong East Perth WAFL
1991 John Hutton Brisbane Bears Claremont WAFL
1992 Drew Banfield West Coast Eagles Subiaco WAFL
1993 Darren Gaspar Sydney South Fremantle WAFL
1994 Jeff White Fremantle Dandenong Stingrays TAC Cup
1995 Clive Waterhouse Fremantle Port Adelaide Magpies SANFL
1996 Michael Gardiner West Coast Eagles Claremont WAFL
1997 Travis Johnstone Melbourne Dandenong Stingrays TAC Cup
1998 Des Headland Brisbane Lions Subiaco WAFL
1999 Josh Fraser Collingwood Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup
2000 Nick Riewoldt St Kilda Southport Sharks QAFL
2001 Luke Hodge Hawthorn Geelong Falcons TAC Cup
2002 Brendon Goddard St Kilda Gippsland Power TAC Cup
2003 Adam Cooney Western Bulldogs West Adelaide SANFL
2004 Brett Deledio Richmond Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup
2005 Marc Murphy Carlton Oakleigh Chargers TAC Cup
2006 Bryce Gibbs Carlton Glenelg SANFL
2007 Matthew Kreuzer Carlton Northern Knights TAC Cup
2008 Jack Watts Melbourne Sandringham Dragons TAC Cup
2009 Tom Scully Melbourne Dandenong Stingrays TAC Cup
2010 David Swallow Gold Coast East Fremantle Football Club WAFL
2011 Jonathon Patton Greater Western Sydney Eastern Ranges TAC Cup
2012 Lachie Whitfield Greater Western Sydney Dandenong Stingrays TAC Cup
2013 Tom Boyd Greater Western Sydney Eastern Ranges TAC Cup
2014 Paddy McCartin St Kilda Geelong Falcons TAC Cup
2015 Jacob Weitering Carlton Dandenong Stingrays TAC Cup
2016 Andrew McGrath Essendon Sandringham Dragons TAC Cup
2017 Cameron Rayner Brisbane Lions Western Jets TAC Cup
2018 Sam Walsh Carlton Geelong Falcons TAC Cup
2019 Matthew Rowell Gold Coast Oakleigh Chargers NAB League
2020 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan Western Bulldogs Oakleigh Chargers NAB League
2021 Jason Horne-Francis North Melbourne South Adelaide SANFL

As of the 2021 AFL season, in which North Melbourne finished last, Port Adelaide is the only club never to have had the first overall selection of an AFL Draft.


With the introduction of a women's competition in 2016 (for the 2017 season), a draft was set up for the AFLW.

In 2016, the first draft pick was awarded to the GWS Giants, but this selection was taken after several selections were made, such as for the marquee players. In 2017 GWS traded the first selection, and the Western Bulldogs ended up with the selection. In 2018 it was awarded to Geelong, one of the expansion clubs for that season.

Draft Player Selected by Recruited from League recruited from
2016 Nicola Barr Greater Western Sydney Sydney University SWAFL
2017 Isabel Huntington Western Bulldogs Melbourne University VFL Women's
2018 Nina Morrison Geelong Geelong Falcons TAC Cup
2019 Gabby Newton Western Bulldogs Northern Knights NAB League
2020 Ellie McKenzie Richmond Northern Knights NAB League
2021 Charlie Rowbottom Gold Coast Oakleigh Chargers NAB League

Pre-season draft

Main article: AFL Pre-season Draft

Rookie draft

See also: Australian Football League Rookie List

Held at the same time as the pre-season draft, the rookie draft is a chance for clubs to recruit players for their Rookie list. Rookies are usually picked as young, developing players and can be elevated from the rookie list during the year, if there is a long-term injury or retirement to a senior player in the team. Once the rookie is elevated, he remains that way until the end of the year, where they can be officially upgraded to the senior list, or placed back on the rookie list, or delisted/not offered a new contract. Teams are allowed to have four to six rookies, but the Queensland and NSW teams may have more.

International rookies

Rookies are also available to be selected from overseas countries and players on the list do not count towards the salary cap. Notable examples are Irish Tommy Walsh of Sydney; Canadian Mike Pyke of Sydney, a former rugby union international; and Americans Seamus McNamara and Mason Cox, both former college basketball players who were rookie listed by Collingwood.

In 2006, the AFL introduced a new scheme where clubs can maintain two international rookies (excluding Irish players) outside of the regular rookie list.[7]

The rule was adjusted in 2010 to group international rookies with players recruited from other sports, and refers to them as Category B rookies. Up to three can be listed in addition to up to six Category A rookies.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Quayle, Emma (17 November 2006). "When the draft blew in". The Age. Archived from the original on 18 November 2006.
  2. ^ Foreman, Glen (25 November 2008). "Fremantle Dockers coach Mark Harvey raises concerns over draft". Retrieved 28 November 2008.
  3. ^ "AFL approves draft, trading rule changes". 30 April 2008. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  4. ^ Gill, Katrina; Tanking talk ‘pathetic’, says Demetriou; 20 June 2008
  5. ^ "Father–Son Rule". Archived from the original on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  6. ^ "Father–daughter rule in place for AFLW trading period". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  7. ^ Quayle, Emma (25 August 2006). "Clubs to get new overseas talent scheme". The Age.
  8. ^ "Rookie players".