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No benefit from AFL reserves

Ben Griffiths of the Tigers celebrates a goal during the VFL Semi Final match between Box Hill and Richmond at Fortburn Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)
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11th April, 2018
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There has been much discussion in recent weeks about the return of an AFL reserves competition after the AFL had a meeting with club presidents and CEOs.

In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but there is no real relevance or gain from reintroducing a reserves competition.

Even if the AFL does decide to bring back a reserves competition, it wouldn’t be in the near future. It would be an expensive undertaking and would most likely have to wait until a new broadcast deal came through to help fund it.

The league’s resources are already being stretched with the AFLW competition, which will expand further in both 2019 and 2020.

1999 was the last season where there was a dedicated reserves league. AFL-listed players who now aren’t picked for the seniors play in state leagues which include the VFL (Victoria), SANFL (South Australia), WAFL (Western Australia) and NEAFL (New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and ACT).

Port Melbourne VFL Grand Final 2017

(Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)

12 of the 18 AFL clubs currently have their own stand-alone reserves side, the other six are linked with other state clubs in their respective leagues. Fremantle/Peel Thunder, West Coast/East Perth, Carlton/Northern Blues, Melbourne/Casey Demons, Hawthorn/Box Hill and St.Kilda/Sandringham.

The coaches from the two Queensland clubs, Chris Fagan from Brisbane and Stuart Dew from the Gold Coast, have come out and endorsed the idea of bringing back an AFL reserves competition. Fagan believed this would be an advantage for both players and coaches, referring to the fact that he got his first chance at AFL coaching with the Melbourne reserves.


He said it would help team spirit by having both teams play at the same ground, and would help make the weekly training schedule for both sides easier to manage. Dew followed on this point, saying, “It would actually bring the club closer if you travelled together”.

“At the moment they are connected all week and then they split,” he said. Having the club all together would be a positive.

That is probably one of the only positives you could have from reintroducing the AFL reserves league. If clubs stay together, the logistics of travelling to two locations might become less of a problem and makes flying emergencies less of an issue.

The idea of curtain raisers doesn’t add much value, as these days most fans don’t show up until maybe an hour before the game.

It’s what we will lose if they introduce the AFL reserves league which is the most important.

These state leagues, the VFL, WAFL, SANFL and NEAFL will become obsolete. This will be a detriment to the game in the long run, because these state leagues have been breeding grounds for many AFL players over the years.

Yes, the leagues will still continue, but they won’t have the same pull and attraction if the chance to play and test yourself against AFL-listed players is taken away.


The VFL is thought of the best league outside of the AFL and has been producing AFL players for decades. A good example for this is the Fothergill-Round medal which is awarded to the most promising young player in the VFL competition.

Out of the past ten winners of the award, seven are currently on AFL lists, including names like Michael Barlow, Michael Hibberd, Dean Towers, Kane Lambert and most recently Bayley Fritsch.

Michael Hibberd Melbourne Demons AFL 2017

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

The WAFL is one of the other strong leagues and without it, we wouldn’t have had some of the stars we have today. Both Matt Priddis and Hayden Ballantyne won WAFL best and fairest (Sandover Medal) before being drafted into the AFL.

Tim Kelly was runner-up in the Sandover medal in 2017 and has already shown great talent in his three games for Geelong this season, demonstrating what clubs could miss out on if they overlook these state leagues.

In the most recent AFL Draft, 15 players were picked up by AFL clubs as mature-age players with another three being drafted after spending at least a season or two out the AFL. From these 18 players drafted, ten have already played a game this season with seven making their AFL debuts.

This shows how important these state leagues are for finding talent that may have been missed in previous seasons.


These state leagues are important and taking AFL clubs out of them and making a stand-alone AFL reserves league will only disadvantage these leagues. Yes, in theory, having an AFL reserves competition sounds smart, but there is no relevance and you’re losing more than you’re gaining in the long run.

The AFL should use its funds expanding and growing the game, not on a reserves competition that offers little to no benefits.