SA, WA clubs to go it alone
A breakaway competition involving reserve teams from West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide could be launched as early as next season, with the West Australian and South Australian AFL clubs losing patience in their battle to field stand-alone teams.
Frustrated after years of players being mismanaged as they are forced to field footballers across various SANFL and WAFL clubs, the four AFL teams have demanded assistance from the AFL in taking on the two state football commissions.
Fremantle chief executive Steve Rosich did not rule out withdrawing the Dockers’ second-tier players and placing a stand-alone Fremantle team in an amateur competition next season, while Adelaide boss Steven Trigg said the Crows had considered joining the VFL.
West Coast chief Trevor Nisbett said the Eagles, like the Dockers, would no longer tolerate the increasing difficulties in drafting and retaining players from other states caused by the predicament they face in having to play those players across nine different WAFL clubs.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou tackled the issue during several days of talks with the West Australian Football Commission and the Eagles and Dockers, which ended on Monday, but the WAFL has continued to reject the inclusion of two stand-alone AFL reserves teams, whether or not they played for premiership points.
Nisbett said the prospect of a breakaway competition had been raised at last week’s meeting of the 18 clubs and was being cautiously considered by the AFL.
The league’s game development boss, Andrew Dillon, is now working with the clubs to reach a solution.
Fremantle, under new coach Ross Lyon, has been a key driver in the reform this season.
”If you were setting up an AFL club today the idea of spreading your young talent over nine different clubs would be seen as illogical and out of date,” Rosich said.
”It’s vitally important to us to keep pace with the competition in Victoria, whose clubs are moving to stand-alone second-tier sides, and Queensland and New South Wales, and give our players a better chance to perform and develop.
”We have been collaborating to get a better arrangement for the secondment of our players to a stand-alone reserves team in the WAFL but that has not been accepted, so we have spoken with the South Australian clubs with a view to setting up our own competition.”
Nisbett added the four teams could potentially introduce extra sides from the Northern Territory or Queensland.
Of fielding a Dockers team in the West Australian Amateur Football League, Rosich said: ”That’s something we haven’t explored but we’re not ruling it out.”
Drafted South Australian-based AFL players, like those in the West, take part in a reverse mini-draft each December. More frustratingly for Adelaide is the scenario that took place at Port this year, where teenagers Chad Wingard and Brendon Ah Chee have played the majority of their football in the SANFL reserves, while rookies Mitch Curnow and Danny Butcher have not played a single senior game in the SANFL, with their aligned clubs preferring bigger bodies and fielding the Port rookies in their reserves sides.
Port faces the extra headache of being aligned with the Port Magpies while being prevented from fielding all its players in that team.
During the Perth talks, Demetriou also tackled the issue over the control of West Coast and Fremantle in their push for direct licences with the AFL.