AN EASTERN seaboard league shapes as a possible solution to the second-tier competition conundrum facing the AFL.
Under the concepts raised at last week's talent pathways committee meetings, AFL.com.au understands one proposal could see the Sydney, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast reserves sides join the Victorian clubs' competition in 2021.
There is significant doubt among clubs around the future of the NEAFL, while the VFL is also facing change, with Carlton having already departed from its long-standing partnership with the Northern Blues as a result of the financial implications of COVID-19.
While the South Australian and West Australian AFL clubs may also alter their second-tier set ups depending on list cuts, a national reserves competition was all but ruled out by West Coast boss Trevor Nisbett on the weekend, who said it would be "too expensive" for the Eagles to be a part of it.
The northern clubs are conscious their young players outside of the senior team will need a strong standard of second-tier competition to develop, with their addition to the VFL under consideration.
The potential of the reserves players from the four northern lists combining to form one side has been raised but is viewed as more unlikely within clubs.
The talent pathways subcommittee linked up twice last week having been formed in late April to guide the AFL on its future plans.
Among the discussion points was the AFL's interest in turning the NAB League competition in Victoria to an under-19 competition to allow those overlooked at this year's draft to play again next year.
The draft age is set to remain at 18, but opening the competition to 19-year-olds would allow clubs to draft out of two age groups.
The talent panel includes senior coaches Alastair Clarkson (Hawthorn), Chris Fagan (Brisbane) and Luke Beveridge (Western Bulldogs), Brisbane chief executive Greg Swann and the AFL's Andrew Dillon and Tristan Salter.
A fourth coach – Richmond's two-time premiership leader Damien Hardwick – also provided his views within the panel last week having been sought out.
Hardwick, like Beveridge, is among the senior coaches to have developed under Clarkson at the Hawks as an assistant before winning a top job elsewhere.
The League has also turned to list managers Stephen Wells (Geelong) and Ned Guy (Collingwood), and Giants football boss Jason McCartney (who was formerly the club's list manager) for their expertise to assist the talent panel.