The New York Breakers were forced to forfeit their 9th of their 10 picks in the International Swimming League draft, and not long after that the Tokyo Frog Kings selected a swimmer who had already been drafted.
Breakers Choose Mehdy Metella
The Breakers, taking the 1st pick of the 10th round, selected French swimmer Mehdy Metella, who is not entered in the ISL Draft Pool.
The league is sticking by the rule, for now, that swimmers must have been registered in the draft pool to enter the league for the 2021 season.
New York Breakers head coach Martin Truijens was told that the pick was forfeited and the draft moved on. The Breakers then used their final draft pick to start the 11th round, where they chose Philip Heintz.
Metella, the forfeited pick, was the 83rd pick of the draft. That means they’ll have to pick up an extra swimmer in the post-draft free agency period and end the draft with just 25 swimmers. That means they’ll be the only team besides Tokyo to end the draft with 27 swimmers after 110 non-retained swimmers are chosen.
This is not the first time that the Breakers have struggled with rules. In a regular season meet last year, they used 15 men on their roster, including 13 in individual events, in violation of the rules. No penalty for that error was announced.
Truijens was the team’s head coach last season, and this season was also given general manager duties.
Tokyo Frog Kings – Sarah Vasey Pick
This wasn’t the first time that happened in the draft. A few rounds earlier, Salo attempted to pick young Russian breaststroker Evgeniia Chikunova, who Energy Standard picked in the rookie draft on Tuesday. That error, however, was caught right away, so he was allowed to pick again.
Not long after, Jason Lezak of the Cali Condors tried to pick Christian Diener, but he had been chosen a few rounds earlier by London Roar. Lezak was also allowed to choose again.
But nobody brought up the Vasey duplication until the Breakers, ironically, came up for the final pick, where Truijens pointed out that they had reserved Vasey.
When Salo came back to make his next pick, there was a heated exchange between him and Apostolis Tsagarakis, the technical director of ISL who is managing the draft on-air. Salo claimed that it wasn’t fair and that his lists weren’t being updated, and Tsagarakis pushed back as host Mark Foster tried to push things along.
Salo then tried to pick Anastasia Gorbenko, who also was already retained, by LA Current.
The tension picked up again in his next pick, as Salo ran down to the end of his time arguing over the choice.
This was one of the few times where the ISL has allowed any hint of controversy to penetrate the veneer that lays over the league in a media that they were able to control. Focusing only on the “amazing” and the “great” has been the league’s approach so far.
But this could become a learning moment for the league – as the tension and drama of these moments provided a boost in attention to the draft.
With tight central control of the league, there’s no obvious opportunity for Salo to appeal that, but there will surely be continued conversation after the draft about the incident, with both sides likely to express displeasure about how it went down.
That leaves Tokyo coming out of the draft with just 21 swimmers, needing to get to at least 32 before the start of the season. They were already controversial for choosing to retain 10 out of an allowed 15 on day 1 of the draft. They’ll now have to dig deep into the free agency pool to fill out their roster.
We’ve seen this kind of thing happen in other major sports leagues. Famously, in the 2011 draft, the Minnesota Vikings missed their pick and had to choose later in the draft. The stakes, of course, were much higher with the 7th pick in the first round of the NFL draft. The Vikings also had 15 minutes, rather than the 60-ish seconds afforded to ISL teams.
So, in a sense, it’s a ‘welcome to the world of pro sports’ for the ISL. A little friction is a good thing for the league, both in helping them develop policies and in fan interest, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.