Trips to the United States have been scrapped as part of an AFL overhaul of its junior academies, which the league hopes will allow more youngsters to experience its elite pathway system.
The AFL announced on Wednesday that its 22-year-old national academy would be replaced from later this year by five state-based academies. The national academy had offered spots for 60 players annually, while the state centres (Vic Metro, Vic Country, South Australia, Western Australia and Allies) will each have 30 positions per year.
The annual April match between a national under-18 side and a VFL club will remain, as will an under-17s All-Star match on grand final day, but the grand final eve under-18 clash is another casualty. The January trip to the IMG academy in Florida has been axed too, but each of the state-based academies will still have three camps a year, one of which will be based around a cultural experience such as a trip to the Tiwi Islands.
Visits to AFL clubs, part of the current national academy experience, will remain, with the league saying more junior players will be able to get that experience than before.
The academies will continue to cater for both under-17 and under-18 players, with each of the state hubs forming the basis of squads for the under-18 championships. The AFL is optimistic this will create greater efficiency and economies of scale.
Despite the US experience no longer going ahead, the AFL says its investment in annual academies has been raised from $1.2 million to $1.7 million, with the increased expenditure a result of the decentralising and increase in players who will be offered spots.
Current AFL academy boss Luke Power will be charged with finding coaches for each of the state-based academies. Positions could be filled from existing under-18 state program officials.
The likes of Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe, Adelaide star Rory Laird and Fremantle ball-magnet Lachie Neale are among the players that missed out on national academy selection as juniors but the league says they would have made their respective state academies had they been around at the time.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter.
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