FIRST-TO-THIRD year players will be the hardest hit on-field by the reduction in football department spending this year, according to former AFL coach Rodney Eade.

With soft caps cut by more than $3 million from the start of last year, many clubs have been forced to downsize coaching panels – including reigning premier Richmond.

Eade, who has started his own coaching program to mentor young coaches, pinpointed draftees entering the system as the most vulnerable in 2021 as a result of recent changes.

The former Sydney, Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast coach of 377 games identified Victorian draftees, including 2020 No.1 pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who has started the year in the VFL, among those exposed most.

Rodney Eade speaks to his Gold Coast players in 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

"Where it'll be affected most is the development, to be able to spend time with the kids and fast-track them, you won't have as much one-on-one work to develop those players," Eade told

"A lot of the line coaches will have to do development as well and they'll have to take on a bigger portfolio than they have in the past.

"I think the biggest impact will be on the draft picks from the last two or three years.

"These kids coming in (from Victoria), and Jamarra might be the best example, (he) hasn't played for 12 months and he hasn't been able to progress apart from growing a little bit.

"If we had games last year he'd be further advanced now, and I think having less assistants and development coaches will impede his development at this stage.

"The Dogs might find come the end of the year he's at the stage of development where they'd hoped to have him at the start (of the year)."

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The Western Bulldogs joined a host of clubs around the competition with reduced coaching panels heading into 2021, dropping from nine to seven at Whitten Oval.

A total of 30 players were selected out of Victoria's NAB League from the 59 players selected in last year's NAB AFL Draft. Two – Fremantle's Josh Treacy and Collingwood's Jack Ginnivan – were taken in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft.

From the 16 first-round picks out of the NAB League last year, Nik Cox, Tanner Bruhn and Ollie Henry debuted in round one, with a further six unveiled since.

Players taken outside the first round from the NAB League to have debuted this year include Charlie Lazzaro (North Melbourne), Sam Berry (Adelaide), Connor Downie (Hawthorn), Harry Sharp (Brisbane) and Treacy.  

Eade, who will coach Balwyn in the Eastern Football League this year, has launched 'AFL Coaching Mentor' to provide a personal and hands-on education to developing coaches.

"A couple of suburban coaches came to me individually wondering whether I'd be able to mentor and coach them. Then speaking to other people (I found) there's really an appetite out there for coaches to improve," Eade said.

"Players get feedback virtually instantaneously, but as a coach you really don't get any feedback, maybe at the end of the year.

"It's for aspirational coaches at any level who want to have that ability to talk someone who's on call and had experience to be able to direct them and talk through specific challenges that come up during a season."