The Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles have taken a significant step forward in the quest to have the AFL clubs represented in the WAFL from 2012 onwards.

The clubs have worked collaboratively on a comprehensive document which was pitched on Thursday to the WA Football Commission and to the nine WAFL clubs before being presented to the media.

The two AFL clubs believe that it is critical to the future of the game in this State that players not selected in their senior teams compete in Fremantle and West Coast teams at WAFL level. Since Fremantle entered the AFL in 1995 and West Coast the expanded VFL in 1987 players not selected for senior representation have been farmed out to WAFL clubs.

Key points in the 52-page document submitted by the clubs believe that to have the AFL clubs competing in the WAFL would:

•           Provide the club with the best opportunity to play finals football and win premierships

•           Allow direct control over our employees/assets

•           Fast track  the development of our players

•           Provide better management of player welfare and injuries

•           Improve operational efficiencies and logistics of player movement

•           Save costs in terms of staff resourcing at multiple venues

•           Allow players to focus on AFL  game style and tactics

•           Keep pace with AFL competition

•           Better manage the induction process of players

•           Assist in player retention

•           Promote better team cohesion, bonding and club culture

The clubs contend that they are currently at a disadvantage under the existing system and that the AFL trend is for clubs have to standalone teams in State league competitions.

It is no coincidence that that three of past four AFL premierships have been won by clubs with a standalone team in their State league and the other premier had all of their players in an aligned VFL club.

In the 2011 season, 14 of the 18 AFL clubs ( including Greater Western Sydney) have standalone or aligned teams  in their State league, with the exceptions being Adelaide, Fremantle, Port Adelaide and West Coast. Going into the 2012 season, seven AFL clubs will field standalone teams and a further seven will  be aligned to State League teams.

Of the seven AFL-aligned clubs four will be looking to introduce standalone teams as soon as finances permit.

“The primary reason that Fremantle and West Coast are pursuing this opportunity is to provide best practice football systems and processes for the development of our players both on and off the field,” Fremantle chief executive officer Steve Rosich said.

“We believe that by introducing strong, well balanced and competitive AFL WAFL teams within the league it will uphold the integrity of the WAFL competition and play an integral role in driving the modern league to a new and exciting era.

“The proposal also provides an opportunity to engage more fans, widen the football pathway, attract more sponsors, identify more player talent and develop further career opportunities.”

Describing the AFL as a “tough and highly competitive environment”, West Coast chief executive officer Trevor Nisbett  said: “If you don’t follow the trends you slip behind the opposition very quickly.

“The successful teams in the recent past are certainly moving in that direction and we need keep pace with them.

“We firmly believe that our players will develop more quickly and more broadly under one system. It is difficult for young players to be schooled on one game plan and to train with that plan in mind from the start of pre-season and to then adjust to another club’s strategies on a match day.

“We believe this proposal can be adopted with a successful outcome for all parties. We do understand the concerns of the WAFL clubs and their loyal supporters, but are absolutely convinced this proposal can be implemented to the benefit of everyone.

“The integrity of the WAFL will be protected, the financial upside for all WAFL clubs is significant, the growth of the game is enhanced and the players at the AFL clubs are developed within one system, under the direction of that club’s development coaches and that can only fast track their progress.

“In addition to that we believe the advent of AFL clubs in the WAFL will reinvigorate the competition and have a positive impact on the performance of the AFL clubs. That, in turn, will have financial spin-offs for the WAFL clubs.”

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