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.
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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).
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."