The SFNL has released the 2017 fixture for its Under 19 competition, with a raft of radical changes to the competition structure set to be introduced for the very first time.
The 2017 season will see 13 teams participating in the Under 19s in 2017 – a record number for the SFNL’s under-age competition since its reintroduction in 2008 – prompting a move to an AFL-style top-eight finals system and a new dynamic fixturing model.
The new 18-game model has been adapted from the mooted AFL season fixture concept, which will see the competition split into pools in the latter part of the season in an attempt to ensure competitive matches between all competition teams
Under the new model, each team will play the other 12 once with one bye each between rounds 1-13, before being split into two pools based on ladder position from Round 14 onwards.
Pool A will feature teams ranked 1st to 6th, with each team to play the other five once in the final five rounds. All Pool A teams are guaranteed a top-six finish at the conclusion of the 18-match home and away season (no team in Pool A can finish 7th or lower), and will fight for the best possible starting position for finals over the last five rounds.
Pool B will see the bottom eight teams (7th to 13th on the ladder) after 13 rounds play five other clubs in this group once to qualify for the last two remaining finals spots. No team in Pool B can finish higher than 7th overall after the home and away season.
All teams will carry over their premiership points and percentage from Round 13 into their respective pools in Round 14.
The top eight ranked teams after Round 18 (the six teams in Pool A and the top two in Pool B) will then compete in a four-week finals series that mirrors the AFL model.
SFNL General Manager Operations Adam Sparrow said the new competition structure would provide a raft of benefits.
"There is certainly a new look and feel to the Under 19 competition model for 2017, and we hope this will allow for a greater number of competitive games in the back end of the year and some real excitement in the lead in to finals. To have eight teams playing finals for the first time should make for a thrilling end to the season," Sparrow said.
"In the short period between receiving final team submissions and fixturing we were able to consult with all clubs involved and are excited about how this new model will play out in 2017, despite the perceived break from tradition.”
"At the end of the day, it is a new concept and we will step back at the end of the year and review with the key respective stakeholders."
Sparrow was also delighted with the high uptake of clubs in 2017, with five clubs either entering an Under 19 team for the first time in 2017 or returning to the competition.
"To have 13 teams committed to the competition is a great outcome for all involved," he said.
"It is fantastic to welcome back Skye after 12 months off, a standalone Bentleigh team, and the introduction of Parkmore / Springvale Districts, Doveton Eagles and Keysborough, through an amalgamation with Carrum Patterson Lakes. This ultimately strengthens the SFNL’s position and the football pathway in the Frankston, City of Greater Dandenong and Casey Council regions in particular.
"All clubs must be commended on their proactive approach in this space."