Uncertainty for AFL draft hopes

Eastern Ranges Girls playing at home earlier this year. Picture: JED LANYON

By Jed Lanyon

The NAB League’s Boys and Girls competitions have been cancelled this year following the implementation of Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne and Stage 3 restrictions in regional Victoria.

The NAB League is the AFL’s premier talent pathway competition comprising teams in metropolitan and regional Victoria making up some of the country’s best under-19s talent in Australian Rules Football.

A statement released by the AFL said, “With the Victorian State Government declaring a State of Disaster, the situation relating to the Covid-19 pandemic remains a significant challenge for the entire Victorian community and provided too great a challenge for the NAB League to be held this year.

“Following the Victorian State Government advice, no community football training or competition can be held in Victoria during current restrictions for six-weeks until Sunday September 13.

AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter said the decision was made following the announcement by the Victorian State Government.

“All levels of the game across Victoria have been impacted by the health pandemic this year and under the new restrictions, any form of training and competition for both metropolitan and regional players and clubs is prohibited,” Mr Salter said.

“We acknowledge this is extremely disappointing news for the players, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans of the NAB League Competition and we commend every NAB League region that has worked tirelessly to find a way through.

“Every step of the way, our focus has been on the safety of players, coaches, volunteers, officials and our communities. Following the updated restrictions announced by the Victorian State Government, it provided too great a challenge for all involved.”

The AFL will continue to support all 2020 NAB League players for the remainder of the year and said they are committed to ensuring opportunities will exist in 2021 for players who have been impacted by the disruptions to the 2020 NAB League season through a revised talent pathways model.

The 12 NAB League Girls clubs each completed up to three matches in March 2020 with Oakleigh Chargers, Greater Western Victoria Rebels and Northern Knights all undefeated. Given only three games have been played, no premiership will be awarded for this season.

The Eastern Ranges Girls team finished their season with a win against Tasmania Devils in their first game at the upgraded Kilsyth Recreation Reserve, while the Boys season was postponed prior to Round 1. Eastern Ranges Boys were set to compete in Healesville against the Geelong Falcons in May.

The AFL is currently working with all NAB League Girls regions on how to best support all players ahead of the 2020 NAB AFLW Draft in October.

The AFL is continuing to explore a return to train and return to play model for Vic Country and Vic Metro Boys State Squads, which if it was safe to proceed, would ensure talent are provided with an opportunity to showcase their talent and assist them in reaching the elite level. Both squads will not commence training or matches unless it is safe to do so.

“Throughout this pandemic the NAB League community has shown great resilience and perseverance and we admire and appreciate the continued positivity during a difficult year for our community. I am not alone in appreciating the challenges players, staff and their families are facing,” Mr Salter said.

“We maintain our commitment to all players that we will continue to explore arrangements to assist them with their talent profile ahead of the NAB AFLW and NAB AFL Drafts later this year.”

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