By Nick Creely
The Casey Demons will form part of a new-look VFL competition in 2020 featuring eight sides, with AFL Victoria announcing the return to play date on Tuesday afternoon.
The VFL is set to kick off on Saturday 1 August with a seven-round home-and-away season, with Box Hill, Casey Demons, Coburg, Frankston, Port Melbourne, Sandringham, Werribee and Williamstown set to battle it out for the premiership.
With the shortened season and less sides in the competition, the finals series will be played over three weeks with the top-four clubs competing, with the grand final to be played on the weekend of 10 October. A VFL split round will be fixtured to provide flexibility while preserving the integrity of the competition.
All eight clubs will return to full-contact training from Monday 13 July to prepare for the shortened season.
AFL head of talent pathways and state league competitions Tristan Salter said despite the new-look VFL competition, it was pleasing that all clubs have come together and worked hard collectively to get a season start date set.
“In line with the variations to the women’s competition this year, the focus for both VFL and VFLW football in 2020 is to ensure talent in both leagues are provided with the best opportunity to develop as footballers and ultimately reach the elite level,” he said.
“The VFL Competition will look different in 2020, but in consultation with all eight clubs, have developed a model which enables a fair and equitable season for our fans, clubs, players, coaches and officials.
“The VFL community has been patient and committed during this time and all players and coaches are ready for training and matches to resume.
“While not all AFL-aligned VFL teams will participate in the competition, we look forward to seeing each of the five standalone VFL clubs involved in the season. Each of those traditional VFL clubs have played a significant role in ensuring the season goes ahead and we commend them.”
Salter said that the focus was on the safety and wellbeing of players, coaches, volunteers and fans and understands the challenges that awaits to get the 2020 season underway.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we hope to start and finish the 2020 VFL season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalised with the public health officials,” he said.
“We know how much these competitions mean to players, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans and we look forward to working together to ensuring all clubs return to play in a safe and well managed environment.”
The AFL is continue to work through arrangements for potential crowds and broadcast models, while there will be a further update in coming days on a revised fixture, season details and broadcast arrangements.
The AFL will continue to review all arrangements including potential crowds and broadcast models in consultation with players, clubs and Victorian State Government and respective Health Officers.
AFL-listed players are not permitted to participate in the 2020 VFL season due to the AFL’s ‘Return to Play’ protocols in place, with current AFL protocols permitting only approved players and staff who form part of the current program to attend their club venues.
AFL Victoria has also announced the plans for the VFLW in 2020, with the best players in the competition set to showcase their talents in the four-team 2020 VFLW Super Series to be held in September.
The VFLW Super Series will see 120 of the best footballers push their case to be selected in the 2020 AFLW draft, to be held later this year. Each team will play three matches before an All-Stars match is played, featuring standout players from across the series.
Salter said that the Super Series will ensure the next generation of AFLW players can develop and provide an opportunity to play football in what has been the most challenging year the game has faced.
“We look forward to seeing the most talented players compete in the rebel VFLW Super Series and hopefully see many of those women drafted ahead of the 2021 NAB AFL Women’s Competition,” he said.
“All levels of the game across the country have been impacted by the health pandemic this year. While we would prefer to provide a standard season of women’s and men’s state league football, this outcome ensures an opportunity for many players to continue their journey in the football pathway.”
AFL Victoria will provide further details in the coming weeks and will continue to work and consult closely with each VFLW club to ensure the continued progression of women’s football. With ten of the 12 VFLW clubs affiliated with an AFL club, the competition was unable to proceed in its traditional format, similar to the VFL men’s competition.