The 2019 Victorian U18 boys talent competition fixture has been released, with Tasmania to compete full-time alongside the 12 teams from the TAC Cup in recent years.
The official naming rights partner for the U18 boys talent competition and the competition name itself will be announced at the end of February, with the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) having ended its association with the competition after 27 years as its naming rights partner.
Five other interstate-based teams – Brisbane Lions Academy, Gold Coast Suns Academy, GWS Giants Academy, Northern Territory and Sydney Swans Academy – will also play five games each from Round 2 to Round 6, two against each other and three against the competition’s regular teams.
Their addition to the competition will see a host of games played at venues across New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, with a range of Victorian teams to travel interstate to play for the first time since 2016 when NSW/ACT, NT, Queensland and Tasmania appeared in the TAC Cup.
Tasmania’s entry to the competition has resulted in the introduction of byes for certain clubs in most home-and-away rounds, while there will also be five study/development weekends throughout the season when no games are played.
The 17-round home-and-away season begins on Saturday March 23 and will again lead into a Wildcard Round, this year featuring all teams from fourth on the ladder down to 13th playing off for the right to advance to a four-week finals series.
As opposed to the 2018 finals series structure – when four elimination finals preceded two preliminary finals and the Grand Final – the 2019 structure will resemble the traditional AFL finals series, with qualifying and elimination finals in the first week, followed by semi finals, preliminary finals and then the Grand Final.
In other features of the fixture:
- Rounds 11 and 12 will be ‘Futures Rounds’, when teams will be required to field a certain number of bottom-age or 16-year-old players while the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships are taking place.
- The newly renovated RSEA Park in Moorabbin will host its first U18 boys games in Round 1, with a double-header featuring Sandringham Dragons vs Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges vs Oakleigh Chargers on Sunday March 24.
- The Geelong Falcons will open their season by travelling to Central Reserve in Colac to host the Bendigo Pioneers.
- The Murray Bushrangers will play home games at Deakin Reserve in Shepparton (against the Bendigo Pioneers in Round 2 and Northern Knights in Round 14) and at Albury Sports Ground (against the GWS Giants Academy in Round 6).
- The Bendigo Pioneers will play two home games at Victoria Park in Echuca, against the Sandringham Dragons in Round 8 and the Murray Bushrangers in Round 12.
- The home-and-away season concludes in Round 17 with triple-headers at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee and Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo on Saturday August 17 and Sunday August 18 respectively.
Last year, 42 of the 78 total selections in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft (54 per cent) came from Victorian U18 competition clubs, with a further seven players picked in the 2018 AFL Rookie Draft.
Over 400 players currently on AFL lists graduated from TAC Cup programs.
CLICK HERE to see the downloadable fixture