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Private schools plan to get footy back as AFL clubs eye talent

Staff at the NAB League clubs were told last week that they were stood down until September 27, though the AFL is still hoping to play a limited number of NAB League games, perhaps as few as five.

Some within the AFL talent system say that if all goes well, it is possible that NAB games could resume as early as August, but there are no guarantees. The AFL would like a national carnival of some description later in the year.

While the APS and AGSV have to win approval to play from each school board and the state government, indications are that those schools want to play in what would be a truncated competition. There is no competitive school sport being played in Victoria now, due to COVID-19 restrictions, with schools only having just returned. But some restrictions will be eased by the government from next week.

Scotch College can showcase one of the draft’s most keenly watched players, in athletic key forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who is bound to the Western Bulldogs as next generation academy recruit and rated as a potential top pick, though the Dogs will claim him under the bidding system with later picks.

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Scotch also has another certain pick in another NGA player, Reef McInnes, who is tied to Collingwood and the Magpies have the opportunity to match bids for, while Geelong Grammar’s Tanner Bruhn, Caulfield Grammar’s Will Phillips, Bailey Laurie and Conor Stone and Brighton Grammar’s Archie Perkins and Darby Hipwell all shape as prospective first- or second-round draft picks this year. Xavier College has a 17-year-old Josh Sin, whom some judges think will vie for the top few selections in 2021.

Haileybury College, which had 20 AFL players on club lists last year, has a couple of potential draftees, headed by Lachie Carrigan, while there are several others in the APS and AGSV who will be considered by clubs.

There was strong support for a season of up to eight games – cut from the usual 10 – at a recent meeting of APS delegates and a wish that a premiership still be decided this year, if possible.

The APS’s executive officer of sport Luke Soulos confirmed that the APS’ wish was that football resumed in term three, along with other winter school sports such as basketball, soccer, hockey and for the co-education schools, netball.

“We hope to be back up sometime in term three,” said Soulos, whose AGSV counterpart Troy Rowe said: “We would hope there’s some competition that can be offered”. Rowe said there would have to be government and AGSV board approval to play.

Some AFL club recruiters have wondered about how they could watch the school footy to assess talent, given the restrictions on spectators and prospective limit of one parent attending, but others within the talent system felt this would not be issue.

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