RIVAL clubs will be watching the Tyson Goldsack 'experiment' closely this year.
Signed as a development coach by Port Adelaide at the start of 2020 with the view to playing SANFL, the Collingwood premiership player will continue in the same role this season.
The only difference in 2021 will be that Goldsack is on the Power's playing list and eligible for AFL selection after being taken at pick No.16 in December's NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
Given the reduction of the soft cap for football department staff by around 30 per cent – including coaches – the move allows Goldsack's wage to be consumed as a player and opens up off-field spending elsewhere.
The club's salary cap flexibility (built off several years of underspend), combined with the progression of the playing list and less need for a developmental player, left a spot for the 33-year-old.
Throw in the SANFL rule which states the Power and Crows can only field one ex-AFL player outside their AFL playing list (former Power and Dockers midfielder Cam Sutcliffe holds that title this year), it allows Goldsack to continue his hands-on role at reserves level.
And it could become adopted by other AFL clubs to host development coaches fresh out of the game while saving on the heavily reduced soft cap.
"I'm still predominantly a development coach first and foremost," Goldsack told AFL.com.au.
"We've been pretty open about it, I am a coach first and foremost and if it ends up me playing AFL, I think we've had a really, really bad run of injuries, let's just say that.
"I don't want it to be seen to be taking the piss of the rookie spot because I think I'm still at a level where I can compete and I don't think we should be signing up 45-year-olds on a rookie spot, that takes away from it a bit.
"And if there's a rule in place in the local league (SANFL) that would've otherwise stopped me from being able to play, then I think we're better for it.
"We might see it more often (around the AFL), we might be even be seeing it now without the official title as a 'coach' and we might not know until the season rolls around. "
Not offered a contract by the Pies at the end of 2019, Goldsack was snapped up by the Power ahead of 2020 as a development coach to assist the club's youngsters.
Before COVID-19 hit, the 165-game AFL veteran was earmarked for a potential berth in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft that never happened.
However, the club decided to make it official in the Rookie Draft at season's end regardless – all while being able to maintain the bulk of its 2020 coaching panel.
"CD (Power football boss Chris Davies) came to me at the end of last year and he kind of said, 'This is what we are thinking and what were your thoughts'," Goldsack said.
"To get to AFL-level fitness you run a fair bit of risk injury-wise, especially if you're in your mid-30s.
"We know I probably can't get to 100 per cent fitness but what I can get to is a level fit enough to be quite competitive at the Maggies (Port Adelaide Magpies SANFL) level.
"If you can have someone out there who can see the game, see things happening and give that feedback straight away, we think that's a pretty good development tool to have."
And as for how much training he's actually done this pre-season?
"I'm here every day we're training and I'm joining in 80-90 per cent of training some days and the 10 per cent I miss is the running and conditioning block," Goldsack said.
"The red coaches' top comes on pretty quickly once they start that. I don't need to be out there taking the spot of a young bloke (in a drill) who would otherwise be standing on the sidelines."
The Power have one spot open for this year's Mid-Season Draft left over from last year's Rookie Draft and don't intend to use it in the pre-season supplemental period up to March.
Instead, expect the Power to land a mature option in the June intake to play a role immediately in the back half of the year in what they hope is a tilt at a premiership.