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Keep Star Players in Northern States: Matthews

The best promotional assets the game has are the players. If you've only got 45 players on the Gold Coast and 45 in Western Sydney and they're unrecognisable and they're not being given the opportunities to promote the game as heavily as they can, then we're selling ourselves short.
Dave Matthews

GIANTS CEO Dave Matthews has called on the AFL to provide "north of a million dollars per year" across New South Wales and Queensland for ambassadorial roles, suggesting it will help keep high-profile players like Tom Lynch at expansion clubs.

Matthews conceded that keeping the best players in the northern states is "a challenge", saying the thought of losing his own marquee stars like Dylan Shiel and Josh Kelly in future years is always at the back of his mind.

However, he believes AFL-funded 'ambassadorial payments' can help clubs like the Suns and the GIANTS retain their stars, subsequently growing the game in new markets.

Matthews has therefore called upon the AFL to provide additional funding that will further incentivise players like Lynch from returning home once their contracts expire.

"It's a smart investment for the AFL, as we continue to try to push into New South Wales and Queensland, to have profile players in these markets doing additional work," Matthews told SEN.

"The best promotional assets the game has are the players. If you've only got 45 players on the Gold Coast and 45 in Western Sydney and they're unrecognisable and they're not being given the opportunities to promote the game as heavily as they can, then we're selling ourselves short."

The GIANTS have lost several high-profile names since their inception, with Adam Treloar, Tom Boyd and Taylor Adams all accepting lucrative offers to return to Victoria.

Last season, multi-million dollar contract offers were also submitted to Kelly – with the talented midfielder ultimately re-signing with the club for a further two seasons.

However, Matthews believes the challenge of retaining his star players will become increasingly difficult should the AFL not increase payment offers to players holding ambassadorial roles.

"It's always a challenge," Matthews said.

"I think we've got a strong track record of retaining our players – and we've spilt quite a few across the competition – but we've kept the majority that we wanted to keep.

"But I think free agency presents a real problem for both Gold Coast and the GIANTS. When you're a young club, you've invested significantly in players for seven or eight years, and just when you're on the cusp of something … that's always in the back of your mind."

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire was the first to rubbish the request, telling News Corp on Friday that "the AFL can't distort the salary cap".

However, Matthews wasn't fazed by McGuire's immediate criticisms of the proposal.

"A lot of the opinion comes from people at clubs who are probably trying to recruit Tom Lynch, so in that sense it's a conflicted argument," he said.