The AFL has today informed all 22 VFL Clubs that the 2021 VFL Premiership Season will not be completed, due to the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 situation across the country.
A 2021 VFL Premier will not be awarded with the league to recognise Footscray as the VFL minor premiers after an undefeated 10-match season.
The evolving COVID-19 situation across the country with a lengthy lockdown already in place in New South Wales, an extension to the Victorian State Government lockdown and having the four remaining sides, Footscray, Southport, Geelong and Box Hill currently located in four different locations across Australia, provided too great a challenge to complete the two Preliminary Finals and Grand Final, and then crown a Premier.
The two Preliminary Finals are scheduled for Saturday September 11 with the Grand Final to be played on Sunday September 18.
Separately, the AFL, Collingwood and Geelong remain desperate to play the 2021 rebel VFLW Grand Final with various scenarios being worked through. No final decision has yet been made for the women’s Grand Final and the delay to the start of the 2022 AFLW Season will provide some additional options.
AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter said the VFL industry has united throughout 2021 to try and make the VFL Season happen.
“The 2021 Season saw multiple schedule changes, several match cancellations, postponements and weeks of hiatus for many clubs. All clubs, players, officials and umpires should be congratulated for their relentless pursuit to play matches,” Salter said.
Salter said the difficult decision was made following close consultation with the remaining four VFL clubs and, after multiple scenarios were considered, the changing nature of the COVID-19 situation made it impossible to complete the competition.
“All levels of the game across Australia have been impacted by the health pandemic this year and it has been another challenging year for everyone connected to football. Footy clubs are the heartbeat of many local communities and the identity of our clubs and our league will not be defined by the outcome of the 2020 and 2021 season,” Salter said.
“We acknowledge this is very disappointing news for the players, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans of the VFL and commend every VFL club who has worked tirelessly to ensure a united approach to the outcome of the 2021 Season.
“We have explored many scenarios as to how we could still proceed in Victoria and interstate over the last few weeks, but it ultimately provided too great a challenge for all involved.”
After 107 home-away-games played across three states with 22 clubs during a COVID-interrupted season, the current circumstances provided too great a challenge as, due to the part-time nature of the competition, the AFL was unable to obtain approval to play matches under the professional sport exemption.
The 2022 VFL Premiership Season is scheduled for March/April 2022 and will continue to be a key pillar of Australian football.
The AFL has confirmed the 2021 J. J. Liston Trophy awarded to the best and fairest player in the VFL will not be awarded. The J. J. Liston has a proud and rich history and previous winners are icons of Australian football. The AFL determined that given the uneven number of available games played to all players that awarding a winner was not the right decision this season.
The below Awards will be presented for 2021 judged on the body of work by each player:
Lambert-Pearce Medal – Best and Fairest Player
Debbie Lee Rising Star Medal – Best First Year Player
Rohenna Young Medal – Leading Goalkicker
VFLW Team of the Year and Coach of the Year
Ann Rulton Award – Volunteer of the Year
Jim ‘Frosty’ Miller - Leading Goalkicker
Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal – Most Promising Young Talent in the VFL (must be no older than turning 24 this season and must never have been on an AFL list)
VFL Team of the Year and Coach of the Year
Alec Gillon Award – Volunteer of the Year
As noted earlier, the AFL, Collingwood and Geelong remain eager to play the 2021 rebel VFLW Grand Final.
The AFL is currently working with all VFL clubs on how to best support all players, coaches and officials impacted by this outcome and how to support their involvement in the game in 2022. This includes exploring opportunities that may provide mature age talent with exposure prior to the 2021 NAB AFL National Draft.
“This has been a challenging decision and we have appreciated the support of all clubs and our commercial and broadcast partners in all decisions this season. We would also like to thank the State Governments and public health authorities for their guidance and support in tackling COVID-19,” Salter said.
“To the legion of passionate fans of the VFL, we thank you for your support and understanding of these unique and challenging circumstances. The one constant over the last two years has been the loyalty and unwavering support of our fans and members and we look forward to preparing a memorable return to VFL football in 2022.
“VFL football will return in 2022 and we look forward to welcoming as many fans as possible back to matches to reconnect with their communities.”
State League Football is imperative in the evolution and growth of Australian football and contributes to a more connected football model across Australia. The VFL will continue in 2022 as a 21-team competition with clubs representing Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.