Changes to football leagues

Northern Knights Ashleigh Snow and Calder Cannons' Charlotte Clayton. (Shawn Smits) 204987_26

Tara Murray

The Victorian Football League and the NAB League competitions have had a shake up ahead of the 2021 season in changes announced by the AFL.

With limited football in 2020 due to the coronavirus, the AFL has done a review into the AFL talent pathways programs and of the VFL and other state league competitions, to decide the best way forward.

The age level of the NAB League girls and boys competitions will change from next year, along with the AFL/AFLW junior national championships.

The under-18 age group will become an under-19 competition, while the under-16 age level will now become under-17s.

The remodelling of the program will help further align and simplify the talent pathway calendar, to provide boys’ and girls’ programs with the same opportunities for elite development while also increasing their connection to community football.

Three rounds of the NAB League girls competition were played this year before the season was cancelled, with the NAB boys competition not going ahead.

The Northern Knights, Calder Cannons and Western Jets are among the teams in that competition.

The draft age will remain at 18 for both AFL and AFLW competitions.

The VFL is set to expand with the North East Australian Football League to be amalgamated into the VFL competition.

The competition will have a mixture of AFL club’s reserves sides, stand-alone second tier sides, AFL clubs aligned with second-tier sides and AFL listed players spread among multiple second-tier clubs.

Williamstown and Werribee are among the VFL clubs that will be affected by the changes.

Williamstown chief executive Jason Reddick welcomed the news of the changes.

“The stand-alone and aligned VFL clubs have worked closely with the AFL for many months to retain the VFL as the second-tier football competition, and ensure our clubs’ place in it.

“Whilst more details and timelines for finalising the club arrangements for the 2021 season are still to come, I can assure all Seagull fans that Williamstown Football Club is well placed to continue as a stand-alone VFL club in season 2021.”

The changes in both the VFL and NAB League are expected to see a greater alignment between those two competitions.

Williamstown currently has a strong partnership with the Western Jets.

The model for the VFLW competition is still under review.

Mr Reddick said the club, the only stand-alone VFL club in that program, remains committed to fielding a team in a state league competition next year.

Werribee Football Club president Martin Carter said said they were working with the AFL to ensure the new competition will be competitive.

“The final make up of the participants will not be finalised until sometime aroundOctober/November given AFL priorities, and a likely expressions of interest and an invitation process,” he said.

“The priorities of our club continue to be the health and well being of the extended Werribee Football Club family, the need to maximise limited revenue opportunities in order to ensure sustainable success and the continued development and success of our

football club within the VFL.

“Together with other VFL clubs we will continue to hold regular meetings with the AFL and keep you apprised of the developments.”