By MITCH RODD

THE disbanding of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Development League will become a reality at the end of this season, with Sunraysia footballers to lose a vital stepping stone towards a potential AFL career.

Reports surfaced late last week that the VFL executive would be recommending to the AFL Victoria board that the ‘VFL-reserves’ be wound up at the end of the season, despite campaigning from clubs.

AFL Victoria officially announced last night that it would do away with the reserves competition.

Some 200 players will now lose the opportunity to play in VFL colours, with the decision to also directly affect the futures of talented Sunraysia players looking to pursue a football career.

AFL Sunraysia Football Development Manager Trevor Ryan said earlier this week that the effects of the reserves competition’s demise would be two-fold.

“This could push a lot of good footballers back into metro and country leagues to help build their competition,” he said.

“On the other hand, it’s now less opportunity for young players, especially coming out of TAC Cup level, to learn their craft and potentially get a shot at making an AFL list.

“I think if players want to try and make a VFL list they will have to have a second club nominated to play for. If there is only a senior team then those who aren’t selected need to play somewhere. That’s the only way I can see it working.

“This will be a decision the players will need to make for themselves.

“The development competition has been a good stepping stone and platform for younger footballers, and if it’s not there, it just becomes that bit harder for them to reach the top level.

“It also hurts us a little bit because if former Sunraysia players aren’t selected, logistically it’s much harder for them to come back and play with their home clubs.”