And so how might an employment relationship make a difference on
the AFL stage? There has been a lot of movement in the coaching
fraternity of late, and even in the past 12 months we've seen
contracts used to prevent moves.
Would the Swans have been better off if Stewart Dew wanted to
leave his contract early as an employee to coach for Melbourne than
they were having him on a contract? Legally, no, although they did
use his contract to prevent that move.
But if the Swans had an identical clause prohibiting Dew from
leaving early or working for a competitor, then the same legal
principles apply, whether the clause appeared in either a contract
or employment agreement. In other words, his move could have been
prevented regardless of his arrangements if the contracts were
Not only in coaching, but also in a significant non-playing
roles at a football club, Neil Balme simply had to serve a four
week notice period with Geelong when he gave notice to join
Collingwood. Clearly Geelong trusted Balme, and that trust would
have existed whatever the legal relationship. And, if there is no
trust or simply no dialogue, a contract or employment agreement
must provide for an agreed exit strategy.
The dismissal of Brenton Sanderson by the Adelaide Crows this
year, not long after extending his contract, would have had little
practical difference regardless of the terms of his employment. If
the contract lacked provisions for early termination, Sanderson
might have been entitled to a significant pay out. This, though,
would depend entirely on the specific terms of his contract.
Being an employee would not have provided any greater protection
to Sanderson's legal position. His pay is likely to have been
above the unfair dismissal cap of $133,000. So yes, he would have
some entitlement to accrued annual leave, and access to personal
leave while employed, but that is most likely all he would have
Where there is a choice, workers in many industries choose to be
a contractor rather than an employee for a plethora of reasons,
even if the employment relationship is a natural and more
Brendan McCartney's recent resignation from Western Bulldogs
would most likely have played out in the same way on the AFL stage,
whatever his precise legal status.
The underlying tensions of performance and team dynamics need
thoughtful drafting, whether an AFL coach is a contractor or an
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The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
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