Under 18 national system gets a re-jig

CREDIT: Callum Twomey – AFL Media

AN ALLIES team of division two prospects is set to come together to play in division one of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships next year after the AFL restructured its national carnival.

The League will move away from its six-round home and away division one championship format to give the standout division two players more opportunities to perform against the top prospects.

The draft schedule of the championships was presented to clubs on Wednesday, with the division two teams – NSW/ACT, Queensland, Northern Territory and Tasmania – set to play their carnival earlier in the year in 2016, with their three-match series slated to start in May.

But a selection of players from each team will be picked to form the Allies side. The division one carnival has been trimmed to five rounds, with each side to play four games (including one against the Allies).

If the initiative was in place this year, it would have meant leading prospects like Queensland pair Ben Keays and Eric Hipwood, NSW-ACT pair Callum Mills and Jacob Hopper and Tasmanian Kieran Lovell could have faced off against the higher standard of division one teams.

In the past two years the division one under-18 championships, featuring Vic Metro, Vic Country, South Australia and Western Australia, has been run over eight weeks from the end of May to the start of July.

Next year the shortened division one carnival is expected to start and end in June.

Another change will be to the NAB All Stars Match on Grand Final morning.

The curtain raiser will feature a ‘best of’ game including prospects from around the country. In recent years it has been played between the NAB AFL Academy and the Allies, but in 2016 will be two hand-picked squads of the best 50 or so prospects eligible for the draft.

The AFL has also moved to accommodate recruiters who are looking for more access to younger prospects after the introduction of trading future picks.

A ‘best of’ under-17s game has been scheduled for September, and two under-16s games are also likely to be curtain-raisers to under-18 championships games to allow scouts easier access to the next crop of players.

The AFL is understood to have toyed with the idea of pushing the national championships back to the end of the season to accommodate private school competitions around the country.

That move would have led to a radical change for the TAC Cup, including the consideration of wiping out the under-18 competition’s finals series to make it just a home and away series, but did not go ahead with the proposal.

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