VFL changes open doors for Goulburn Valley footballers

By Brayden May

The dreams of the Goulburn Valley's finest footballers to reach the top level could soon be a step closer following changes to the structure of VFL lists set to be implemented next year.

All VFL clubs will have access to a development list made up of 19-year-olds, while on game day they must field one 19-year-old player and another under the age of 21.

AFL state league talent pathways head Tristan Salter said the decision would only strengthen competitions such as the VFL.

“Our goal is to achieve a consistent set of rules and regulations, list rules and player access across state leagues to ensure the level of competition and experience for developing players is as equal as possible,” he said.

“These measures have been put in place to not only promote consistency across state league competitions, but maintain competitive balance within each competition.

“The changes to playing list structure also enables a closer connection to NAB League clubs to ensure a strong pathway exists for aspiring players.

“These changes also reflect the AFL's objectives of providing greater opportunity for tier two talent to reach the elite level via the NAB AFL national, pre-season and mid-season drafts.”

State level competitions have been a happy hunting ground for AFL clubs in recent years, with several players making seamless transitions to the top level.

Melbourne's Marty Hore, formerly of Leitchville-Gunbower, is a prime example after being drafted in last year's national draft following back-to-back best-and-fairests with Collingwood's VFL side.

He went on to play 14 games in his debut season.

Meanwhile, during this season, Echuca trio Angus Byrne (Geelong), Darby Henderson (Williamstown) and Noah Wheeler (Northern Blues) were among those to have played at least one game in the VFL.

Summary of VFL rules changes

● VFL clubs will have a development list introduced, made up of 19-year-old players.

● All clubs will be required to play 23 players per match, which will include one 19-year-old development player and one under-21 player (traditional 23rd player).

● List structures for next year will be as follows: Non-AFL clubs can list up to 46 players, including 40 primary listed players and six development list players; AFL aligned clubs can list up to 36 players, including 30 primary listed players and six development list players; AFL clubs can list up to 30 players, including 24 primary list players and six development list players.

● An additional rookie list of two players is available to all VFL teams, which will include NGA players and players who meet the AFL category B Rookie criteria.

● A father-son rule will be introduced next year that allows a club to list a player whose father played 100 games or more for the club (including AFL and AFL aligned clubs). These players will be listed on a club’s development list.

● Aside from current finals eligibility rules, no other playing restrictions will apply in the finals series.