Cyril Rioli hasnt yet retired. In reality, hes been delisted.
A list-lodgment technicality means that the former Hawthorn superstar is available – as of Thursday – as a delisted free agent.
Although Rioli announced his retirement in July with two years left on his contract, the fact he has not signed a particular form means any club can acquire him for free this year, if he changes his mind.
And with new rules regarding rookie spots, a club can offer the four-time premiership player and Norm Smith medallist a rookie position on their list all the way up to March 15.
It leaves the door ever-so-slightly ajar for a return to football at the highest level.
Chapter 17 of the official AFL rule book states that:
A Player who: (i) is on the Primary List of a Club; and (ii) subject to Rule 17.1(c), is removed from the Primary List by that Club on or before the final list lodgement date in a particular year will be a Free Agent in the relevant year.
For Rioli not to become a free agent, he would have had to sign Form 40, as the rules go on to say:
(c) A Player who elects to retire or has lodged a Player Request for Removal from a List form in the form prescribed in Schedule 1 as Form 40, will not be a Free Agent under Rule 17.1(b) in the relevant year.
Riolis management says that he simply hasn't had a chance to sign the form because he is in Darwin.
But the deadline for the form being lodged with the AFL was 2pm on Wednesday, at the same time that clubs had to finalise their list spots heading into the draft and the delisted free agency period.
Rioli was not on Hawthorns list.
When contacted by Fairfax Media, the AFL said in a statement: “Cyril Rioli retired from Hawthorn prior to round 16 last season. As a final formality we are awaiting his signed form 40.”
So while Rioli in theory has retired, in the eyes of Total Player Payments boss Ken Wood at AFL headquarters, hes now a delisted free agent.
Riolis management is adamant that he wont play at AFL level again, but players have been known to regain the hunger.
If he had signed Form 40, Rioli would have been inaccessible for any club until next year.
It also opens the door for Rioli to join a club in next years mid-season draft, the details of which are set to be unveiled by the AFL after the official fixture announcement on Thursday.
Sam McClure won the Clinton Grybas rising star award at the AFL media association awards in 2015.