Victorian draft hopefuls miss on-field chance to impress AFL recruiters

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Draft prospects from Melbourne will not get the chance to impress recruiters in matches before this year’s national draft after the NAB League finals and national under-19 championship games between Vic Metro and Vic Country were cancelled for 2021.

Western Australia, South Australia and the Allies will play matches when permitted in other states including the possibility of a game in AFL grand final week in Perth.

Collingwood father-son nominee Nick Daicos.Credit:Joe Armao

Although the decision was expected, the news is still a blow to those in their draft year who have now missed virtually two seasons of underage football before being eligible to join AFL clubs.

But the AFL has kept the door open for matches being played between footballers from regional areas if restrictions are eased at the end of next week.

Recruiters were upset at the decision made last year to delay the return of male players to their NAB League clubs and then pause the season after three rounds, with one recruiter telling The Age the decision was “coming back to bite”.

Players will still participate in the draft combine at the end of September with several Victorian players including Nick Daicos, Sam Darcy, Josh Gibcus and Ben Hobbs considered top 10 prospects, however players from the SANFL and WAFL have more exposed form for recruiters to consider, particularly when using later picks.

Very few of this year’s NAB Rising Star nominees were Victorian players chosen in the 2020 national draft, an indication of the ground they had to make up after joining AFL clubs.

Tristan Salter, the AFL’s head of talent pathways, said they recognised the impact the interrupted seasons have had on players and their families.

“We remain committed to supporting all players in the lead-up to the 2021 NAB AFL draft and in their football journeys in 2022,” Salter said.

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