A LEADING VFL coach has urged the AFL to step in to overturn AFL Victoria's decision to banish the state league's reserves competition.
AFL Victoria announced the news on Thursday, but the eight VFL clubs fielding a Development League (DL) team this year braced for it for the past month, particularly since last week. Frankston's pitch on Monday for re-entry to the VFL included not entering a DL side.
Sandringham held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss potentially ending its alignment with St Kilda, which started in 2009, in reaction to the looming verdict that means fewer opportunities for non-AFL-listed footballers.
North Melbourne and Werribee are going it alone next year rather than having one side together, so there will be extra spots on their respective lists.
But Williamstown coach Andy Collins, who played 212 VFL/AFL games for Hawthorn, told AFL.com.au the DL's demise "saddened" him and he slammed the decision as "reactive" and "poor".
"The DL was a huge chance for young men to mature as people and footballers, in what I would call a very boutique competition designed for 18-to-21 (year-old) kids who missed out on being drafted," Collins said.
"They say they want to build the game, but we've lost eight teams of men's football – we haven't created another eight teams," Collins said.
"We talk about Frankston coming back in and North Melbourne and Werribee will need a few more players … but there will be about 120 talented young men spat out of footy, and they may not have a footy home now."
AFL Victoria chief executive Steven Reaper blamed financial difficulties and a lack of administrative resources among the reasons for ratifying the VFL executive's recommendation.
"With only eight of the 14 clubs fielding a development team, scheduling difficulties have grown each year; adding pressure to staff and volunteers with games increasingly being played at different grounds and often on different days to senior VFL games," Reaper said.
"The cost of running the DL currently sits in excess of $1 million between the competition and the clubs, and this is both not viable nor the best possible use of investment into the future, when we are seeing clubs experience financial difficulties."
Collins rejected Reaper's suggestion the DL was a financial impost, saying the competition's costs were only a "small percentage" in the sport's overall budget.
"It sounds like a lot when you talk about our home loans, but in the bigger-picture spend on football annually, it is such a small amount – it's like a pimple," he said.
"That's where the AFL, the custodian of the game, needs to really assist in people making great decisions in the best interests of football and not just what's in the best interests of a footy league.
"This decision seems final, but if I was the AFL, I'd be giving AFL Victoria some extra resources."
The fear among clubs, especially those with AFL alignments, is there will be too few playing opportunities to encourage footballers to pursue the VFL pathway. VFL clubs will have to foster a strong feeder system with grassroots clubs, where the increased leftover players will filter to.
Collins is concerned about how much work will be involved in tracking players who miss senior selection and are then "scattered" across community football.
AFL Victoria will reveal on August 7 whether Frankston was successful in its bid to return after a season out of the VFL, but no other licenses will be considered for 2018.