AFL sucker punch as entire league axed
The AFL has pulled the rug out from under the nine NEAFL clubs on the day the entire second-tier competition was scrapped.
As the AFL endured a dark day where approximately 20 per cent of its staff found out they no longer have jobs, the news that the NEAFL will not return in 2021 was largely overlooked.
For the Canberra Demons, though, it was a sucker punch.
According to The Canberra Times, the club wasn't even told about the killing off of the league before the AFL sent out a press release informing them the decision had already been made.
Demons officials found out at the same time as reporters around the country did.
"Charming. The @CanberraDemons find out the #neafl is getting scrapped when the @afl make the announcement," journalist David Polkinghorne posted on Twitter.
"Haven't discussed it at all, didn't even tell them they were announcing it! Feel for those @neaflofficial who lost their jobs today."
The report claims the Demons were "blindsided" by Monday's announcement.
The AFL announced the North Eastern Australian Football League will be merged with the Victorian Football League to create the premier reserve-grade competition in football.
How many of the nine NEAFL clubs live to see the competition become a reality remains to be seen.
The league said the reserve grade teams linked to the four AFL clubs in NSW and Queensland will continue in the VFL - but the futures of the five stand-alone NEAFL clubs is now uncertain.
Canberra, Aspley Hornets, Redland Bombers, Southport Sharks and Sydney University now have the dilemma of trying to survive in the beefed up VFL or merging with one of the existing clubs.
The clubs also have the option of spreading their top AFL-listed talent across multiple second-tier clubs.
Canberra player-coach Kade Klemke told the Canberra Times in June he feared the fallout for the ACT if the region's best talent is forced to move elsewhere to play at a higher level.
"I'm hopeful there will be a pathway here in Canberra and that will be the Canberra Demons," Klemke said.
"Fingers crossed we continue, whether that's in a new competition or the way it is. There is too much good talent in Canberra, I'd hate to see players leave the area.
"That's why there has been a Canberra Demons team, to keep players here. There are some really good footballers here."
The AFL said in a statement the decision to scrap the NEAFL will be met with a renewed focus on the talent academies belonging to the Swans, Giants, Lions and Suns to identify and develop young stars.
The 2020 NEAFL season was suspended in March as a result of the coronavirus before it was announced no second-tier competitions would return as the AFL did in July.
The Brisbane Lions will never get the chance to defend their 2019 NEAFL premiership after they went through the entire season undefeated.
Originally published as AFL sucker punch as entire league axed