Vic Country's Patrick McCartin is a highly-rated key position prospect
RIVALS Vic Country and Vic Metro will open the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships in this year's revamped carnival format.
The 2014 championships will see the four division one teams – both Victorian sides, South Australia and Western Australia – feature in a six-round home-and-away fixture.
It is a switch from the structure of previous seasons, which has been a five-round series with cross-division games.
The new program will give players more opportunities to impress, with the Victorian sides kicking off proceedings at Visy Park on May 18.
The format will also allow more players to represent their state, with AFL rules forcing division one teams to play a minimum of 32 players from their squads with a minimum of two games each.
Last year's division one winners South Australia will start its title defence at home against Western Australia at AAMI Stadium, but will not close its campaign at Etihad Stadium like recent years.
SA will finish by playing Vic Metro at Simonds Stadium on July 3, with division two sides Queensland and NSW/ACT to meet at Etihad on July 2 before Vic Country and Western Australia.
Although the division two sides will play fewer games than recent seasons and won't play against the division one teams, their fixture is balanced against the fact they will play more TAC Cup games this year.
A 'rising stars' squad of the best prospects from division two will also be picked to play against the 2014/2015 AFL National Academy team in a game during Grand Final week.
This year's crop is considered to have more depth than last year, with a number of key position players seen as likely early picks.
Many will feature in the AIS-AFL Academy's match against Collingwood's VFL side on Friday, April 4, at the MCG as a curtain raiser to the Hawthorn/Fremantle Grand Final re-match.
The Academy will then travel to Europe the following day for a two-week tour and training camp, splitting time in London and Milan.
DIVISION ONE FIXURE
Vic Country vs Vic Metro Visy Park May 18, 11am
South Australia vs Western Australia AAMI Stadium May 24, 12pm
Western Australia vs Vic Metro Medibank Stadium May 31, 11am
South Australia vs Vic Country AAMI Stadium June 1, 11.30am
Western Australia vs South Australia Medibank Stadium June 7, 11am
Vic Metro vs Vic Country Visy Park June 8, 11am
South Australia vs Vic Metro AAMI Stadium June 14, 11am
Western Australia vs Vic Country Fremantle Oval June 15, 11am
Vic Metro vs Western Australia Simonds Stadium June 27, 12.35pm
Vic Country vs South Australia Simonds Stadium June 27, 2.35pm
Vic Country vs Western Australia Etihad Stadium July 2, 5.35pm
Vic Metro vs South Australia Simonds Stadium July 3, 1.15pm
DIVISION TWO FIXTURE
Tasmania vs Queensland Blacktown June 21, 10.30am
NSW/ACT vs Northern Territory Blacktown June 21, 12.50pm
Northern Territory vs Queensland Visy Park June 28, 12pm
NSW/ACT vs Tasmania Visy Park June 28, 2.15pm
Queensland vs NSW/ACT Etihad Stadum July 2, 3.35pm
Northern Territory vs Tasmania Simonds Stadium July 3, 11am