The AFL has recently communicated with all AFL and AFLW Clubs to confirm the model for the AFL Talent Pathway Programs in 2022.
Following a review undertaken over the past few months, the AFL Talent Pathway Programs have been remodeled following the impact of COVID-19 and will continue to provide Boys' and Girls' Programs with opportunities for elite development and a connection to community football.
The new calendar of football will have alignment with competitions across Australia and provide talented players with multiple options for football competition to showcase their skills and qualities ahead of the NAB AFL and AFLW Drafts.
The review spent several months analysing the state of the AFL Talent Pathway Program after two years of COVID-19 interrupted football, and in regular consultation with the majority of AFL/W Clubs and AFL Talent staff across Australia.
The Talent Programs will continue to focus on identifying and developing players from across Australia and best preparing them for the AFL and AFLW competitions.
The model communicated to AFL and AFLW Clubs included:
- NAB AFL/W National Development Championships (U16) and NAB AFL/W National Championships (U18)
- National Championships for Girls will be staged in March/April and the majority of Boys games in June/July
- 2022 NAB AFL/W Academy Squads announced in December 2021
- NAB League Girls and Boys pre-season commence in November 2021
- NAB League coaching and wellbeing resources increased to further support the boys and girls in these regional programs
- NAB AFL/W Futures (U17) games for both boys and girls during 2022 as was planned for 2021
AFL National Talent Development and Competitions Manager Grant Williams said the model for 2022 will provide talented athletes the greatest opportunity for success – on and off the football field.
"Australian Football continues to attract the best young athletes in Australia and to maintain this momentum it is crucial the talent model provides all players and staff the greatest opportunity to succeed," Williams said.
"The talent pathway program focuses on developing the future of the AFL and AFLW with commitment to improving their on and off field capabilities.
"Every year we look forward to seeing the next generation grow as people and as footballers and their enthusiasm and commitment to the National program is a clear indicator that our game is strong and our pathway programs are made up of the best Australian sporting talent.
"We are thankful to all AFL and AFLW clubs for their ongoing support and feedback and we look forward to working closely with them in the implementation of this model in 2022," Williams said.
The Next Generation Academies (NGAs) are now aligned to state diversity and national talent pathway programs. NGA matches will be conducted across Australia in 2022.
NAB AFL/W National Academy (U18)
- National Academy Manager and Coach Tarkyn Lockyer
- Selection of the best 17 and 18-year-olds across Australia who will be eligible for the 2022 NAB AFLW and AFL Drafts
- Squads to be announced in December 2021
- NAB AFLW Academy game scheduled for June
- NAB AFL Academy game scheduled for May
- High-performance training camps with matches
NAB AFL/W National Development Championships
- Predominantly for players in their 16th year with an allowance on application for some players in their 17th year subject to approval
- All-Australian U16 teams selected
NAB AFL National Development Championships (U16 boys)
- 10 teams across two divisions
- Division 1 – Victoria Country, Victoria Metro, Western Australia and South Australia
- Division 2 – Northern Territory, Tasmania and four Club Academies (GWS GIANTS, Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast SUNS)
- Five games scheduled for June followed by a Carnival scheduled for July school holidays
- The Carnival will include diversity talent games between Boomerangs & World Team
NAB AFLW National Development Championships (U16 girls)
- Intrastate games for best 45-50 girls in each State/Territory
- Two games per State/Territory for a total of 14 games
- Timing of games to suit each State and Territory
NAB AFL/W National Championships
- Predominantly for players in their 18th year and the best 17-year-olds with allowance on application for some players in their 19th year subject to approval
- All-Australian U18 teams selected
NAB AFL National Championships (U18 boys)
- Five teams – South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria Country, Victoria Metro & the Allies (Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Tasmania and Northern Territory)
- Four games each (10 games total) in home and away series format
- Majority of games to be played in the June/July school holiday period across Australia
- Victoria Country vs Victoria Metro game in September during the 2022 Toyota AFL Finals
NAB AFLW National Championships (U18 girls)
- Six teams – South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria Country, Victoria Metro & the Allies (New South Wales, ACT, Tasmania and Northern Territory)
- Three games each (nine games total) spread across March/April before the National Championships Carnival – two games over four days in April school holiday period
- National Championships Carnival will include diversity talent games between Woomeras & Medleys
Flying Boomerangs & World Team Program (U16)
- Will play a two-match series against each other in conjunction with the NAB AFL National Development Championships
Woomeras & Medleys Program (U16)
- Will play a two-match series against each other in conjunction with the NAB AFLW National Championships
National Indigenous & Multicultural Academies
- U18 program made up of 100 male and female Indigenous and Multicultural athletes, which will be conducted online across the year
The 2022 NAB League pre-season for boys and girls will commence in November 2021. Season start dates will closely align with AFLW and AFL seasons. Coaching and wellbeing resources at all NAB League regions will be increased to further support girls and boys in the pathway in Victoria. After the transition of the following NAB League coaches into AFLW/VFLW ranks – NAB League regions will look to replenish their coaching line-ups with female coaches from the AFLW coaching program.
- Melissa Hickey (Geelong Falcons – Western Bulldogs AFLW Assistant Coach)
- Emma Grant (Bendigo Pioneers – Richmond AFLW Development Coach)
- Steph Binder (Dandenong Stingrays – North Melbourne VFLW Coach)
- Cherie O'Neill (Bendigo Pioneers – Hawthorn VFLW Coach)
NAB League Girls
- 2022 pre-season to commence in early November 2021
- 2022 Round 1 – weekend of Saturday January 22
- 2022 Grand Final – weekend of Saturday April 9
NAB League Boys
- 2022 pre-season to commence in mid-November 2021
- 2022 Round 1 – weekend of Saturday April 2
- 2022 Grand Final – mid/late September
The AFL acknowledges and thanks the contribution and collaboration from all those that were involved in developing the revised Talent Pathway Program for 2022.