By Nick Creely
In a major blow to the next crop of AFL and AFLW draftees in Victoria, the premier under-18 competition, the NAB League, has been cancelled for season 2020.
It was hoped that the Country conference – except for the Dandenong Stingrays – would get a start on 22 August, and the Metro conference would potentially get some games in later in the season, however with the Victoria government’s declaration of a state of disaster this week and with restrictions going to stage four in metropolitan Melbourne and stage three in regional areas, the decision was confirmed by the AFL on Tuesday to scrap the season.
At this stage, the AFL is hoping to run some representative matches between Vic Metro and Vic Country squads later in the year – if restrictions are eased as Melbourne grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The AFL’s head of talent and state league competitions Tristan Salter told AFL.com.au that, while the news was of great disappointment, it was the only option for the AFL with the current restrictions.
“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,” he 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 Victorian state government, it provided too great a challenge for all involved.”
The AFL has also confirmed it will allow more players who are in their draft year to return to the NAB League next year if they are not drafted by an AFL club in 2020, in what is already going to be a new-look draft model.
With the NAB League girls seasons managing to get three matches in March before the season was brought to a standstill, a team of the year will be awarded but there will be no premiership awarded in 2020.
Salter said that the AFL remains committed to supporting the players ahead of the AFLW and AFL drafts later this year, and praised everyone in the NAB League community for their efforts in trying to get a season up and running.
“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,” he 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.”