AFL club recruiters have been left frustrated after being told they will not be allowed to attend school football matches featuring leading Victorian draft prospects on Friday and Saturday.
Sources confirmed clubs received an email from the AFL on Wednesday that outlined restrictions on attendance at Associated Public Schools (APS) and Associated Grammar Schools of Victoria (AGSV) late this week and this weekend.
AFL clubs have been told they will not be allowed to send recruiters to watch matches in person in either competition.
The AFL told clubs that recruiters had been permitted to attend NAB League matches in regional Victoria this weekend but were still waiting on the green light for metro games.
A host of top draft prospects will therefore play this weekend without recruiters being able to watch them as playing school football generally takes precedence over NAB League participation.
For example, AFL academy members Cooper Hamilton and Josh Rachele – both boarders at Caulfield Grammar – are set to play for their school against Brighton Grammar rather than for their regional NAB League teams.
Haileybury’s Connor Macdonald – also from the Dandenong Stingrays – is in a similar boat, with his school taking on St Kevin’s.
Other key matches involving affected draft prospects include Carey Grammar (Jed Rule, Anthony Caminiti, Luca Anderson and Braden Andrews) v Geelong Grammar (Oscar Faulkead and Jai Serong), Melbourne Grammar (Josh Ward, Ned Long and Jack Peris) v Scotch College (Sam Darcy and Scott Beilby).
The AFL said on Wednesday that it was seeking clarification of who would be allowed to attend the metro NAB League games after the state government’s announcement that community sport would proceed this weekend but was limited to only people required to attend and that spectators would be allowed within venue limits.
The APS and AGSV both declined to comment when contacted on Wednesday.
Club recruiters who spoke to The Age anonymously said they were disappointed with the decision, with some suggesting that players would be better off playing in the NAB League instead of school footy this weekend.
Clubs have limited access to video recordings of school matches, meaning some prospective draftees’ performances will go unwatched by recruiters.
Victorian draft hopefuls were disadvantaged last year when both the NAB League and school football seasons were cancelled, leaving locals unable to put forward their draft cases while players in other states were able to play close to full seasons.
Only one Victorian player from last year’s draft – Essendon’s Nik Cox – has been nominated for the Rising Star award so far this season, while No. 1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is yet to make his debut for the Western Bulldogs after having his 2020 season with Scotch College and Oakleigh wiped out.
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