Stuart Milligan

Action from last year’s VFL development league grand final between Box Hill and Casey. The future of the league is in doubt. Picture: Stuart Milligan

Reported by Paul Amy and Luke D’Anello, Leader
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June 29, 2017 1:48pm 

VFL clubs are campaigning to save the reserves competition, the Development League.

Officials at VFL and TAC Cup level have been saying in the past few weeks that AFL Victoria has all but ruled out the Development League continuing beyond this season.

They are adamant it is needed, describing it as a vital link between the under-18 competition and senior VFL football.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Is there a need for the reserves competition in the VFL? Tell us below

Without it hundreds of young players will be denied listings at VFL clubs and will go back to local football, the clubs say.

Port Melbourne, Williamstown, Casey Demons, Sandringham, Northern Blues, Coburg, Box Hill Hawks and Werribee all field DL teams.

A handful of presidents met last week to discuss the issue. With general managers they are mustering support and will approach the AFL directly about keeping the competition.

It’s believed some AFL clubs are prepared to contribute to the submission.

VFL clubs had to fight last year to keep the Development League for this season.

Those with alignments to AFL clubs are particularly concerned because their representation in the VFL would be reduced to topping up numbers for a senior team.

Box Hill players celebrate their VFL development league grand final win last year. Picture: Stuart Milligan

Sandringham, for example, fielded 19 St Kilda players a few weeks ago.

“You get to the point where you cease to become a football club,’’ one GM said.

Any reluctance among clubs to field reserves comes down to costs but they agree guaranteeing its future is the first priority.

Williamstown coach Andy Collins earlier this year said the AFL and AFL Victoria should recognise the Development League’s role and give it more funding.

He said the DL was vital to help young players who lacked the physical or mental maturity to step straight into senior ranks.

“For the VFL to ask players to go from under-18 football straight into senior VFL football would be negligent of both the AFL and AFL Victoria,’’ Collins said.

He called the Development League “an essential part of the Victorian landscape … for that 18 to 21 or 18 to 23-year-old bracket of player’’.

“It’s so important these guys get a chance to develop with quality facilities around them, quality fitness staff and quality coaching. That’s what VFL clubs can do. But we can do it better with better resources, and that’s one of the biggest issues.

Nathan Freeman (right) in action for Sandringham during a VFL Development League match last year. Picture: Hamish Blair

“There’s only one reason why the Development League is struggling and that’s because of the finances of some VFL football clubs.

“It should be funded in an identical model to the TAC Cup. They’re both development leagues after all.’’

A number of AFL players have appeared in Development League premierships, including Dale Morris (Werribee), Liam Picken (Williamstown), Taylor Duryea, Sam Gibson and Cam Pederson (Box Hill Hawks).

Two-time SANFL Magarey Medal champion Joel Cross also played in a Hawks flag.

One president said this afternoon: “If there’s a competition, we want to play in it. But we’ve heard strongly that there won’t be Development next year.

“You’ve got to look at Plan B, a worst-case scenario, and that looks like academy programs, community stuff, women’s football, partnerships with local leagues.

“But we need Development.’’

AFL Victoria said in a statement: “The future of the Development League is reviewed every year as it has been for the past few seasons.

“Clubs have varying views regarding the Development League. These views, along with a variety of other factors including cost pressures on clubs, scheduling difficulties, pressure on staff and volunteers given the scheduling difficulties, player recruitment, relationships with community clubs and leagues and how to best ensure the senior team can be competitive, are all considerations."



Sandringham ( Or is that St Kilda seconds?) fielded 19 St Kilda players recently and still played like shit!

" You get to the stage that you cease to be a football club"One GM said

Oh so true!

How many VFL coaches actually support the development league ??

You may be surprised to find out those that don't !!

We might be from the bush. but we ain't green

I think you may have mentioned before Digs that you believe Ayres is not a proponent for the retention of the competition, but I'm not sure what that is based on.


I will say that I believe aligned clubs will cease to exist at all if they are reduced to being a football club with a list of 12-20 players and only 3 or 4 getting a game each week.


It will be tough for clubs like Werribee and potentially Frankston in particular to put a list of 60 odd players together in preparation for a standalone 2018.


If Frankston are readmitted they will not be feilding a Develpoment side.

For mine the survival of stand-alone clubs is placed at risk if development league goes. The initial saving of money & or more money for marquee players at stand-alone clubs is quickly usurped by a majority of the list caught between being a VFL player & a local footballer.

You could have 12-15 players on a VFL list who turn up for training & sit through a review for a game that they never played in & they may hardly play a VFL game all year & then go back to a local club who they rarely train with & are expected to fit in.

It works ok for players who have experienced open age football & if you look at AFL clubs like Geelong & Footscray etc they try and recruit players with at least 3 years open age experience, but for players coming straight out of TAC Cup ,the system of VFL aligned to local footy will be detremental to the development of many players.


If you can't understand that the AFL and AFL Victoria simply want to get the second tier back to the way it was in the early 90s, with a single team AFL reserves competition and top-up players (previously known as a supplementary list) to fill the last 4-12 spots in that team (depending on injuries), then you're either wilfully blind or galactically stupid.

Thus, it will spell the end of the old VFA clubs. The end is nigh. 

Whether Frankston gets readmitted or not will say a lot about the credibility of that theory.

If the Dolphins are knocked back despite the off-field work they've done this year then maybe you're onto something. If they're readmitted, I think it would reinforce the view that the AFL wants standalone VFL clubs but only if they are professionally run.

There is no reason why the dolphins will not be re admitted. I think the developement league is an absolute must.

If they get rid of the VFL reserves then Sandringham, Box Hill, Casey and Northern Blues might as well cease to exist. These clubs will have a few players making up the numbers and that's it. In some cases if the AFL teams have a full list NOTHING. At least with the VFL reserves it gives players at least a chance to get into the VFL system and in some cases get drafted to VFL clubs. My opinion is the VFL developement League is an ABSOLUTE MUST !!!

Frankston returning doesn't impact on the end game for AFL Victoria. They only wish to field a senior team, which fits in fine with a VFL seniors only structure.

Over the next 3-5 years, they'll phase (back) out those VFA origin entities that are only fielding one team now, by jacking up the affiliation fees beyond their capacity to pay. Out goes North Ballarat, Coburg and Frankston (again). 

Leaves Werribee, Port and Willy to go. That'll be when footy politics really comes to the fore. 

If you doubt me, get a copy of the Kelty Report, and read it carefully. Not a single word from AFL Victoria had criticised or contradicted his recommendations. 

 Josie Hayden.Northern Blues coach Josh Fraser has backed the Development League’s future. Picture: Josie Hayden.

Northern Blues coach Josh Fraser backs VFL Development League as AFL Victoria reviews its future

JOSH Fraser has thrown his support behind the future of the VFL Development League, joining the campaign to save the state league’s second tier.

The Northern Blues coach said the club’s reserves side was “the fabric of our footy club”, with Kane Keppel, Tim Jones, Kye Declase and Dyson Stevens among 13 players to have featured in the VFL and Development League this year.

RELATED: VFL Development League’s future in doubt

Fraser said it would be illogical to scrap the Development League, which this season features eight teams including five from AFL-aligned clubs Werribee, Box Hill, Northern Blues, Sandringham and Casey Demons.

“I haven’t heard a logical argument as to why it shouldn’t be in place,” Fraser said.

“I don’t understand why it is being considered as something that is going to be taken away.

“It’s a really important step between local football and VFL football.

“I just haven’t heard a compelling argument as to why they are going to get rid of it.”

Officials from VFL and TAC Cup clubs have stated in recent weeks AFL Victoria has all but ruled out the Development League continuing next year.

Tim Jones has been one of Northern Blues’ Development League success stories. Picture: Tim Murdoch

The governing body said the competition was reviewed each season, with issues such as cost and scheduling considered.

“Clubs have varying views regarding the Development League,” AFL Victoria said in a statement.

“These views, along with a variety of other factors including cost pressures on clubs, scheduling difficulties, pressure on staff and volunteers given the scheduling difficulties, player recruitment, relationships with community clubs and leagues and how to best ensure the senior team can be competitive, are all considerations.”

Fraser said hundreds of DL players listed at VFL clubs should not be denied the chance to test themselves in the state league.

“They are a very important part of who we are and the opportunity to keep developing those guys and give them senior opportunity is something that as a footy club we value highly,” he said.

Western Bulldogs premiership players Dale Morris and Liam Picken, North Melbourne midfielder Sam Gibson and Melbourne utility Cam Pedersen are among the AFL players who have appeared in the Development League.

“Those guys would be lost to the system altogether,” Fraser said.

“I think that is what that pathway provides.

“It’s the fabric of our footy club, the fabric of a lot of footy clubs and a step between under-18 footy, senior VFL footy and AFL footy.”