VFL restructure floated by former club president

By Alex Mitchell

VFL clubs remain hopeful of a season this year as consultations continue between the league, Victorian Government and AFL.

But no timeline is yet apparent on a decision to call the season either way as clubs remain searching for answers as to how the competition can be financed with no crowds likely to be allowed at games.

Other contributing factors include the health and safety of players and what measures can be put in place to ensure this, as well as insurance measures.

More than 20 district products had found a place on a VFL list for this season, although many of these were for AFL-affiliated clubs that appear unlikely to take part in the state league with AFL-listed players banned due to COVID-19 concerns.

The eight remaining teams are pushing for a season, with a joint statement from the clubs labelling the AFL Victoria and Cricket Victoria agreement to extend football season into October as a positive outcome.

One floated model to restructure the competition moving forward would greatly affect the region's footballing landscape, with former Sandringham VFL president Gerry Ryan calling for the VFL and the NAB League to merge.

Speaking with The Leader, Ryan said the model based on the South Australian and West Australian football league systems would have under-age players push into senior sides, eliminating the cost of running both clubs.

While Ryan's suggestion would have metropolitan NAB League clubs link up with existing VFL clubs, senior sides would need to be created for the Murray Bushrangers and Bendigo Pioneers to facilitate the new competition.

“You could do much more better work for football, for aspiring players and local communities and grassroots football by streamlining the administrations and creating a better and more defined pathway to the AFL system,” Ryan told The Leader.

“You’re going to have a state league that’s more identifiable, more sustainable.

“With the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have had to remodel themselves and adapt and change and I think the AFL has to really take the lead here and establish a better model for our state.

“The way it’s operating now — replicating everything from the CEO to the doctors and physios — we could do so much more with less.’”

● Local NAB League players could potentially face serious disadvantage heading to this year's AFL draft, with the talent-pathway competition still in some doubt of taking place.

While youngsters from South Australia and Western Australia look set to be able to take part in the SANFL and WAFL in the back half of the season, reported on recently the AFL had no plans for NAB League games "in the coming months", instead hoping to run a different format competition late in the year.

But with elite private school football competitions targeting a term three kick-off, country footballers not boarding at one of the schools look to be some of those most impacted by the lack of NAB League.

The region's top prospects could face the proposition of relying on footage from before this season to decide their draft fate, while also missing the opportunity to show their recent developments.

It has also been floated this season's AFL draft could be pushed back into 2021, allowing for draftees to complete Year 12 schooling, which could provide more of an opportunity for under-18 National Championships to be held, typically a huge part of assessing a player's draft stock.

Shepparton United's Zavier Maher would appear to be the Goulburn Valley's best chance of being drafted this season, being named in the AFL Academy's country hub and having trained with Richmond for a week during summer.