A RETURN to an elite NAB AFL Academy model is on the cards as the League's talent division works through the changes to the system for 2021.
The NAB AFL Academy had for the past two years branched out to include 150 players country wide in five state Academy hubs across two age groups (17 year olds and 18 year olds).
However as the League deals with the financial fallout from COVID-19 and prepares for a changed junior model in 2021, AFL.com.au understands it is canvassing clubs and state bodies about returning to the original Academy format where a smaller group of 30-40 prospects are involved in a high-end footy 'finishing school'.
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The AFL will move to under-19s and under-17s competitions next year in a shift from the under-16s and 18s championships that are a central feature of draftees' seasons.
However the League is still mindful of finding a program for the best 18-year-olds to have close ties with AFL clubs throughout their draft season.
The NAB AFL Academy program has allowed opportunities for top talents to be interviewed regularly by AFL club recruiters and even travel with them for training camps, while also spending weeks at clubs training and experiencing the life of a top-level player.
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In decentralising the national Academy in 2018, the AFL created the five talent 'hubs' in Western Australia, South Australia, Vic Metro, Vic Country and the Allies (New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory).
Each hub had three camps, including a cultural experience, throughout the year, with the best talents at both under-17s and under-18s level picked for representative games.
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The League had gone down that track with its pathways program to give a broader range of players access to the Academy coaches.
However a move to the previous form of the Academy is expected under coach Tarkyn Lockyer, who joined the AFL as the Academy's head coach in November last year.