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League seeks answers on pathways to the AFL

Sideshow Daisy, Derby doozy and more Matt Thompson brings you all the very latest footy news
Michael Barlow of the Dockers in action during the 2014 AFL round 01 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Fremantle Dockers at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on March 14, 2014. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Michael Barlow is one of the success stories of drafting mature-age state league players
CLUBS have been quizzed whether the gap between Under-18 football and the top level is widening as part of the most significant review of the League's talent pathways in more than a decade.
Staff from clubs and state leagues are expected to hear details of the AFL's national talent review on Tuesday, May 13, which has been undertaken by football operations boss Mark Evans and projects manager Tristan Salter in recent months.
The forum will focus on the results of an online survey which was sent to clubs, where general football managers, recruiters and list management staff, coaches and other relevant football department personnel were asked to take part and share their thoughts on the drafting process.
It is understood the review covered almost every angle of the League's talent pathways, including the role of the AFL National Academy, the Under-18 championships structure, indigenous programs, international ventures, the draft age, and levels of remuneration for development coaches around the country.
Other key areas to be assessed were the AFL's talent strategy, the statistical information provided to clubs by the League about players, and the development of players who are not drafted but remain in state league systems like the VFL, SANFL and WAFL. 
A major emphasis is believed to have been whether players have developed enough to transition from underage and state leagues to the AFL, and what measures can be put in place to ease that passage.
Among the suggestions was an increased focus on mental development so players can cope with the stresses and demands of an AFL career once they arrive at a club.
More than 100 people from club land and state level are expected to hear from the League when the results are released, with the role of the AFL National Academy to be discussed.
That was understood to be a focus of the questionnaire, with clubs asked on the value of the Academy's overseas tour, and where they believed money should be spent on the program.
The selection of the squads is also under review, with suggestions ranging from having larger squads to the appointment of full-time recruiters who monitor and pick the groups.

Lifting the eligible draft age continues to be a discussion point, with the question asked of clubs as part of the survey.
Some in the industry believe it should be raised so players can focus on their year 12 studies and experience more open-age football before being drafted, with a 'mini-draft' type of situation for 18-year-olds.
Others are of the view it such a move would halt development of draftees who are ready to play at the top level.