THE COUNTRY'S leading under-18 competition will return in two months after the AFL revealed a start date for the NAB League.
AFL.com.au revealed in May the AFL was eyeing a return to the field for the best young draft prospects in Victoria in August for a six-week season.
On Wednesday the League confirmed those plans, officially informing clubs it would be beginning the under-18 competition on Saturday, August 22.
NAB League sides will participate in a six-week season splitting the 12 clubs into Metro and Country conferences.
They will play five rounds within the conferences and then a final in the sixth round, essentially meaning the top-placed side in each division will face-off for the premiership in the final week.
The other lower-ranked clubs will also play against a side in the opposing conference in round six, ensuring some of Australia's leading draft hopefuls take the field in front of AFL recruiters.
After the NAB League season was suspended just days before it was due to begin in March there were fears this year's draft class wouldn't get a chance to play again in 2020.
But after being given government clearances, the AFL has paved the way for players from the 12 sides in Victoria to take the field.
The AFL is still working on its options for the Tasmanian under-18 side, which was set to participate in the competition this year.
AFL clubs will be pleased with recruiters and list managers returning to work in recent weeks having largely been stood down across the competition when the season was suspended.
The NAB League supplies an average of more than half of the draft pool to clubs each season.
Fourteen of last year's 21 first-round picks were selected from the NAB League, including Gold Coast's top-two choices Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, while 24 of the first 40 picks came out of the competition.
The NAB League girls competition will also recommence with three more matches for each team to complete a six-game season.
The first three rounds of the season played in March for the NAB League girls will count towards the 2020 campaign, with the Oakleigh Chargers, Greater Western Victoria Rebels and Northern Knights remaining undefeated.
A further two rounds of games will be played ahead of a NAB League girls finals weekend for all clubs, with the competition to resume on Saturday, September 5.
There remains hopes for a representative series for the girls and boys to be played in late September or early October, potentially in conjunction with a scaled back NAB AFL Draft Combine, with under-18 competitions now earmarked for returns around the country.
Tristan Salter, the AFL's head to talent and state league competitions, said the new season model was required after the COVID-19 pandemic.
"All levels of the game across the country have been impacted by the health pandemic this year. While we would prefer to provide a standard season of NAB League football, this outcome ensures an opportunity for many players to continue their journey in the talent pathway," Salter said.
"We know how much these competitions mean to players, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans and we look forward to working together to ensuring all clubs return to play in a safe and well managed environment."
"We are excited about the return of community and school footy and players are being encouraged to engage in these formats before returning to test themselves in the NAB League competition."