However Roos cautioned against hasty decisions being made, saying serious discussions about the sizes of player lists, talent pathways and football departments were virtually impossible until the amount of money likely to be available to clubs post-coronavirus became clear.
“Until we understand exactly what the money is than you just can’t have the conversation because it becomes too emotional, ‘why are we cutting this, why are we cutting that’,” Roos said.
“If we know exactly what that [likely revenue] is than you can start to model the game on whatever that looks like.”
Roos has always advocated for the draft age to be lifted and said it was time for the AFL to take a “back to the future” approach, adopting the best elements of the under-19s system – that lasted until 1991 – and the current model to ensure players enter clubs when they are ready.
“If you look at the AFL we are the only tier-one competition in the world that really has a development phase within their professional sport. It’s crazy,” Roos said.
“I can tell you that many kids have been drafted who were never, ever going to make AFL football because they are just so far behind.
“Most clubs have four development coaches but if you take those four development coaches and put them at the Sandy Dragons and the Oakleigh Chargers [current NAB League clubs] you are going to create a better system.
“But you have to create the system. You can’t take those players and coaches out of the AFL if there is no other area to develop. If you do then it is arguably a better system.”
Roos said there was no easy answer but there was merit in looking back to go forward, with the old under-19s system he came through exposing many more people to the reality of life in an AFL club than happens nowadays.
“I don’t think there could be any debate about the old system being better than the new system in terms of creating talent,” Roos said.
“What was the old system? Lets take the good parts out of the old system and cross out the bad parts and take the good parts out of the new system, like northern state academies for instance.”
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Roos, who coached Sydney from 2002-2010 and Melbourne from 2014-2016, said a good system was the critical determinant of team success. He said getting the program right was more critical than getting the numbers right, although a bare minimum of resources was needed for each club to compete.
“You are going to have a hard cap in the next couple of years,” Roos said.
“My view was that if a club wants to spend money they should be able to spend as much money as they want, but I always felt like their should be a minimum standard.”
He said clubs did not appoint new people just for the sake of it, so there needed to be careful consideration given to any recalibration.
“We have to realise we came to this model because there was so much money in the business,” Roos said.
“It is considered a not-for-profit in the sense of ‘we’re here to win premierships, not make money’.”
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.