VFLDuring the week, the VFL released a list of talented young footballers who they have placed into the inaugural VFL academy and it is a positive step forward in rookie recruitment.

The academy has been established to “enhance the talent pool existing in the Victorian Football League”, and also to identify the players who have a chance at getting rookie-listed at the end of the season. This is the first time that such a process has been implemented and it is long overdue.

We all realise the quality that is currently running around in the state leagues, but why don’t the AFL clubs take a chance on some of them?

Many have been overlooked, and once they’re over that 20 years of age mark, they seem to disappear from the radar.  Yes, there have been the success stories; Michael Barlow and James Podsiadly are two that come to mind.

The latter was tried and tested by Essendon and Collingwood before being delisted and moved back to the VFL, where he played brilliant seasons with Werribee and Geelong’s VFL side.

But why did he only get drafted after Geelong had offered him a fitness coach role, and not offered him a playing contract?

Barlow did not play TAC Cup football, but instead moved to country Victoria to play senior football. He was not even on the draft radar, when he should of been a first-rounder.

This is what is wrong with the Victorian football system in particular. The clubs focus on the under-18 competitions, while there are outstanding players running around in senior football who may well be better equipped on the field and tougher emotionally after already adapting to senior footy.

James Magner showed why he was highly touted in Melbourne’s bad loss to Brisbane, but why only now and not seven years ago? Why is Shane Valenti still languishing in the VFL despite winning two J.J. Liston Trophies on the trot and only being 25 years of age?

Surely he is more deserving of a spot on a list than an Olympic hopeful (see Geelong) who is only there to train and try and make the Games. No offence to him, but he is possibly taking up a person’s spot who’s only dream since he was five was to play in the AFL.

This new academy can change this, while also strengthening the VFL. I know that because of these young to mature-age recruits, I’ve been watching the VFL a lot more for possible cheap SuperCoach options in the AFL next season!

For the record, the academy players are:

Damien Bugeja                     Williamstown

Jack Beech                          Sandringham

Jack Charleston                    Williamstown

Jackson Coleman                  Sandringham

Brett Eddy                             Collingwood

Jack Frost                             Williamstown

Kyle Hartigan                        Werribee Tigers

Adam Marcon                       Northern Blues

Shaun Marusic                      Frankston

Damien Mascitti                    Port Melbourne

Leigh Masters                       Coburg Tigers

David Mirra                          Box Hill Hawks

Ozgur Uysal                        Coburg Tigers

Michael Riseley                   Casey Scorpions

Coleman Schache               North Ballarat

Brede Seccull                       Collingwood

Scott Sherlock                     Werribee Tigers

Michael Sikora                     Sandringham

Tim Totevski                       Northern Blues

Dean Towers                        North Ballarat

Willie Wheeler                     Coburg Tigers