Clubs pitch a combined VFL-NAB League season to AFL
NAB League teams could play in a revised VFL competition this year, giving under-18 draft hopefuls a chance to show their wares to AFL recruiters.
Paul Amy and Jon Ralph, Bayside Leader
May 6, 2020 12:00pm
Williamstown’s Jake Greiser and his Towners teammates are playing a waiting game.
VFL and NAB League teams could play in a combined competition in the second half of the season under a plan being kicked around by state league clubs.
VFL officials are floating the idea of adding under-18 talent to the league and playing 10 rounds and finals.
They see it as a way of getting the VFL back on the ground while showcasing draft prospects to AFL recruiters.
TV coverage would be essential to help cover the running costs.
It’s understood some VFL clubs have pitched the concept to the AFL, which is sounding out Channel 7.
AFL football managers and recruiters have also been alerted to the proposal.
“They (football managers) believe it’s got plenty of merit, if it can get off the ground,’’ a VFL official said this morning.
“It will hinge on a broadcast, to generate some commercial revenue.’’
The five stand-alones – Coburg, Frankston, Port Melbourne, Williamstown and Werribee – and aligned clubs Box Hill Hawks, Sandringham and Casey Demons would make up an eight-team competition.
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The clubs believe the recruiting aspect of it would add relevance and meaning to the season, highlighting draft prospects.
Williamstown prospect Nick Ebinger.
The idea is for top-age NAB League players to be attached to the VFL teams and “give them every opportunity to get in front of AFL recruiters’’, the VFL official said.
“Games livestreamed, stats, vision provided to AFL clubs, put all that into the equation,’’ he said.
“This is genuinely what is being considered, and it has plenty of merit in terms of servicing the talent pathway for 2020.
“It would generate amazing content in the lead-up to the draft, similar to the content for the NFL draft.’’
The VFL clubs are keen to rescue the season but without crowds are concerned they won’t be able to pay their bills.
On Monday Sandringham secretary and AFL Victoria life member Dennis Galimberti declared the Zebras would have to ask their players to play for free unless the AFL was prepared to bankroll an abbreviated season.
He said VFL clubs relied on match-day revenue.
The AFL is yet to give any indication on a return to VFL and NAB League action.
But some recruiters have already lodged formal submissions to the AFL about aligning VFL and NAB League clubs as a way forward.
Under one proposal merged VFL and NAB League clubs would have Under 18 and VFL sides but the same administration and coaching teams.
They believe it would be a significant cost-saving and avoid a duplication of coaches, with coaches forced out of AFL clubs likely to drop back to lower levels.
For example, the Geelong Falcons might link with Werribee, the Eastern Ranges with Box Hill and the Calder Cannons with Coburg.
As one recruiter said today, “It would save a fortune long-term and keep alive the spirit and tradition of clubs who have fought for 100 years”.
Some recruiters and NAB League clubs are also frustrated with the lack of diversity on the AFL’s new talent pathway committee.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is on the AFL’s new talent pathway group and has already complained of the “elitist” system that funnels kids into the NAB League and AFL pathways.
He is joined by former Hawks assistants and administrators Damien Hardwick, Chris Fagan and Luke Beveridge, with NAB League clubs worried they will be affected despite outstanding results with 60 per cent of recent draftees coming from that competition.