AFL clubs could have three options for reserves teams in 2021: fielding their own teams, aligning with a current VFL club or even spreading listed players among more than one VFL club.
The AFL will definitely allow teams to field their own reserves sides, with an alignment – such as Hawthorn’s Box Hill arrangement and Melbourne’s with Casey Demons – also an expected option in what is likely to be to an expanded eastern seaboard competition with the Swans, Giants, Suns and Lions fielding sides.
The AFL may allow teams to settle on the model that suits the individual clubs. Hawthorn, Melbourne and St Kilda could stick with alignments (St Kilda are aligned with Sandringham in the VFL), but other Victorian teams could have the option of spreading the players who are not getting a game into at least two VFL teams.
Some Victorian clubs have made noises about not fielding a fully funded reserves team and instead playing “scratch matches” between one another – as the clubs are this year with no VFL competition – because they feel they will struggle to field a proper reserves team under the AFL’s soft cap of just $6.2 million.