CLUBS have been asked to provide feedback on the best structure for Next Generation Academies as some push for better draft incentives for talents in the program.  

The NGAs have been a source of much discussion since first being introduced in 2017 as a means to increase the numbers of Indigenous and multicultural players coming into the top level via each club having its own Academy set up.

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In 2020, when Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was the No.1 pick for the Western Bulldogs via their Next Generation Academy, the AFL Commission ratified changes to the program that meant clubs would not be able to match bids on their NGA graduates within the first 20 picks in 2021 and then the first 40 picks in 2022.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan celebrates with his family after being taken at No.1 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft. Picture: Michael Willson, AFL Photos

It retained simpler access to later draft prospects through the Academies.  

At the same time clubs also slashed their investment in the programs while dealing with the financial impact of COVID-19 as well as soft cap limitations. The changed funding, as well as the lower incentive to produce players without having the rights to match bids on them in the protected zone of the draft, has seen the program change at club land. 

However, the AFL addressed recruiters and list managers at a talent pathway meeting on Tuesday and has provided a questionnaire to clubs about the next steps for the NGA system for further consideration.

Some clubs are keen to see improved draft incentives for the NGA products, with many viewing the top-40 protected zone as too much and believing that just the first 20 picks should be protected.

Last year St Kilda nabbed four players from its NGA program including Mitchito Owens, who received a bid from Sydney at pick No.33. Because it was after the pick 20 threshold, the Saints were able to match the bid for him. But in the same circumstances this year, Owens, who debuted in round one for the Saints, would have gone to Sydney and the Saints would not have been able to match until after pick 40.

In 2021 Melbourne was unable to match a bid on NGA product Mac Andrew, who was Gold Coast's No.5 pick, because he was selected inside the first 20 picks.

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North Melbourne's Tarryn Thomas (pick No.8) and Collingwood's Isaac Quaynor (No.13) were the first NGA players to be first-round picks in the 2018 draft, while Ugle-Hagan and Port Adelaide's Lachie Jones were also first-rounders in 2020. 

Other matters discussed at the talent pathway meeting included scheduling for the national championships this season, an update on athletic testing, enhanced database tracking, plans for the end-of-year Draft Combine and some discussion on list sizes.