Greater Western Sydney have had their access to top-end talent in the rich Albury/Murray region slashed.
The AFL announced the move on Monday amid growing unrest among Victorian clubs at the concessions granted to the Giants as part of their academy system.
GWS will still be able to gain access to players from the region, but the AFL’s amendments to academy rules limit the number available in any one year.
“The priority for us is a set of rules that are uncompromised to ensure equality,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told Fox Footy.
“You only then make changes to that for overriding strategic importance and a decision was made to put academies over and above the draft in the northern markets to develop talent out of those regions.
“Even with the changes that have come through I think there’s a view from our talent (evaluators) that GWS will still have two guys in their academy who are potential first-round picks.”
GWS lobbied the AFL over the past six months to maintain their rights to the region, arguing they were simply carrying out the league’s own talent development strategy.
But they were forced to grudgingly accepted the changes.
“The Giants’ list currently has 32 per cent of its players from New South Wales and the ACT – this is a significant achievement and a cornerstone of what the AFL set out to achieve via the academy program,” a club statement read.
“At the 2016 AFL draft ten players were selected by AFL clubs from (our) academy region, placing it behind only Victoria and Western Australia in terms of players selected. This is an outstanding achievement.
“We are disappointed but acknowledge the AFL Commission’s decision and will now work with the AFL on the detail of how we continue to provide pathways for young boys and girls wanting to play Australian Football in the affected regions.”