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Don’t forget about us, VFL clubs tell the AFL amid restructure talk

As the AFL weighs up the second tier of football in Victoria, VFL clubs believe they should be brought together with the NAB League teams to form regional hubs.

Paul Amy and Jon Ralph, Leader

Subscriber only


June 4, 2020 3:00pm

The future of the VFL remains up in the air.

The future of the VFL remains up in the air.


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Historic Victorian football clubs believe they are fighting for their futures as another dark cloud settles over the VFL.

The clubs fear they will be left on the outer amid growing talk of an AFL eastern seaboard reserves competition in 2021.

“We are worried that the current groundswell for change from within the AFL industry is not factoring our clubs into any potentially new tier-two model,’’ Coburg GM Sebastian Spagnuolo said today.

“We’ll continue to make sure we’re being heard and recognised for what we’ve done in the past and what we aim to do in the future.’’

He added: “The state of Victoria should have the strongest state league football competition and as an industry we should be focused on working towards that outcome.”

A group of VFL clubs has submitted a blueprint to the AFL outlining a hub model involving

the Under 18 NAB League teams.

Frankston’s Will Fordham.

Frankston’s Will Fordham.

It proposes bringing the VFL and NAB League teams together in regions, running Under 17, 19 and senior programs.

It would kick off with Coburg, Frankston, Port Melbourne, Werribee, Williamstown, Sandringham, Box Hill Hawks, Casey Demons and the Northern Blues, with scope to add teams out of the Bendigo, Greater Western Victoria and Murray Bushrangers NAB League programs.




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If an AFL reserves competition does not go ahead players would be farmed out to VFL clubs, based on geographical zones.

Essendon players, for example, would link with Coburg.

It’s similar to the model being promoted by former Sandringham president and AFL Victoria life member Gerry Ryan.

“With a great feel for grassroots football and strong links in our communities, we feel that we are in a strong position to cater to both the AFL competition and just as importantly the talent pathway and player development programs in the state’’ Spagnuolo said.

“We understand that the AFL has a panel of people from the AFL industry discussing the future of tier two football and we would welcome the opportunity when the time is right to share our collective views with that panel.

“The affect of COVID-19 has impacted and will continue impact the football landscape. We agree that it could take some years to recover, however there’s no reason why VFL stand-alone clubs can’t be part of an exciting future for the game in Victoria at a state league level.’’

Coburg GM Sebastian Spagnuolo.

Coburg GM Sebastian Spagnuolo.

Spagnuolo said the VFA/VFL was older than the VFA/AFL and clubs had rich histories in football and in their communities.

He said that should not be forgotten or lost on the people making decisions about the future.

“With the support of the AFL, VFL stand-alone clubs can become hubs for the community and provide outstanding player development programs including all-abilities, multicultural and diversity programs for men, women, boys and girls.

“With the need for looking at budgets and costs within the AFL we can see the linking of current NAB league programs to VFL clubs being something that could work for all parties and especially the regions of the state.’’

Stand-alones Coburg, Frankston, Port Melbourne, Werribee and Williamstown, and aligned clubs Sandringham, Box Hill and Casey, are pushing to get an abbreviated season going.

They remain in talks with the AFL.

Sandy, Box Hill and Casey will effectively be stand-alone teams given St Kilda, Hawthorn and Melbourne players will be unavailable.

The Zebras have been given the green-light to top-up their list.

vfa's picture

The vfa clubs have been very proactive off the field.