The Werribee Football Club is disappointed with the decision by AFL Victoria not to continue the Development League beyond the 2017 season.
Werribee president Martin Carter said the decision was a difficult one for clubs to swallow in the face of the existing challenges of connecting and engaging with their local communities.
“We view ourselves as leaders among the VFL in our community programs and are active in the development and expansion of the game,” said Carter.
“This decision will alter slightly, but not change, our mission as a standalone club in 2018 with the best facilities a VFL club can offer, to offer as many opportunities for players, support staff and coaches as we can .”
Werribee senior coach John Lamont, a long-time advocate of the Development League, said the demise of the competition created a lot of uncertainty around the issue of player development.
“I really feel for the players who are coming through the talented-player pathway here in Victoria,” said Lamont.
“There’s going to be a gap now, and I have a real concern for the ripple effect it will have on football.
“There are a couple of players on our list at the moment who are playing really good VFL football but have played a lot of Development League football because they weren’t quite ready when they exited the TAC Cup.
“In the next few years, for the equivalent of those boys, I’m just not really sure what it’s going to look like for them. It’s going to shrink the talent pool, and that’s a real worry.”
Lamont also spoke of the effect of the decision on the current playing group.
“They’re really disappointed with the decision, and they don’t really understand it,” he said.
“They don't want to be a one-team club. They know what it’s like to have two teams playing on the one day and have everyone supporting their mates, and they know those not in the VFL team will now be back playing at different clubs under different coaches and game plans, their Werribee VFL coaches unable to watch them play.
“We have spoken about it, and while they are super excited about being a standalone VFL club, they are devastated about losing their Development League team.”
Club CEO Mark Penaluna said the ramifications of the decision extend beyond the playing group.
“The most obvious impact is that there will be significantly less opportunities for players to find a way into the VFL system, but there are flow-on effects beyond that,” said Penaluna.
“For many clubs this could also mean the loss of important pathways for staff in areas such as coaching, sports medicine, sports science, and administration.”