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Dees, Giants seek special playing deal for Cat B rookies

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AFL-LISTED Category B rookies Austin Bradtke and Callum Brown could play as overage players in the revamped elite under-18 Victorian competition in 2019.

AFL.com.au understands Melbourne (Bradtke) and Greater Western Sydney (Brown) have approached the AFL about their developing players featuring at under-18 level as well as in the VFL or NEAFL competitions in 2019.

The Victorian under-18 competition, formerly known as the TAC Cup, has undergone an overhaul for 2019 with teams from the Giants Academy, Lions Academy, Swans Academy and Suns Academy to feature alongside the more familiar sides.

Although nothing has been ticked off formally, it is understood the AFL is open to the proposal put forward by the Demons and the Giants.

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The special dispensation would be consistent with the classification of overage players at TAC Cup level who missed out on being drafted.

Bradtke, a talented junior basketballer who has converted to football, and Brown, a former up-and-coming Gaelic football player from Ireland, have limited football experience and could benefit from playing with and against their peers.

Melbourne head of player development Matt Egan has held discussions with Dandenong Stingrays talent manager Darren Flanigan about Bradtke playing games for the TAC Cup club this season.

The Demons won a hot competition to sign the 204cm Bradtke, beating Geelong and Collingwood for his services once he decided to pursue a football career.

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Bradtke is highly touted for his raw athleticism and competitiveness, but is still very much in the development phase of his career as he learns about what it takes to be a professional player.

The 18-year-old has been working closely with ruck coach Greg Stafford on improving his ruck craft, as well as taking tips and advice from All Australian big man Max Gawn and North Melbourne recruit Braydon Preuss.

Where Bradtke plays in games through 2019 could depend on the composition of Melbourne's side and whether Gawn and Preuss play together at AFL level.

Bradtke is the only other genuine AFL-listed ruckman on the club's list, although the Demons could call upon pinch-hit options or a VFL-listed player to perform the ruck duties for Casey should they decide developing the youngster at TAC Cup level would be more beneficial.

Demons football manager Josh Mahoney said the club was looking at different options on what best suits Bradtke's development in 2019.

"We've had preliminary discussions with the Dandenong Stingrays about the opportunity for Austin to play some games," Mahoney told AFL.com.au.

"It has been tentatively approved by the AFL and we think that will be a great option for us if we want to use it through the year to combine him playing some under-18 football along with playing VFL, and to fast-track his development."

The abolition of the VFL Development League at the start of last year has also been seen as a challenge for Victorian clubs deciding on how to best develop their inexperienced players.

Callum Brown has a Gaelic football background. Picture: AFL Photos

The Giants are still considering whether Brown, who has been training as a forward, will turn out for the club's NEAFL side or its academy team in the under-18 competition.

Given where he is positioned in his career, Brown, still only 18, may gain confidence from playing against players of similar age or skillset as he learns the intricacies of the game.

The League is keen to maintain a uniform policy on AFL-listed players featuring at the underage level, so has been contacting interstate clubs about the ruling this week.

AFL player movement boss Ken Wood, who oversees total player payments, has also been involved in the construction of the ruling.

An announcement from the AFL on the prospect of Bradtke and Brown playing in the under-18 competition is due shortly.