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Northern Bullants bite back: Twenty-two clubs to feature in east coast feeder league

From The Age - www.realfooty.com.au
Reported by Scott Spits
Full article - Click here

The AFL has confirmed that 22 licences have been granted for the second-tier competition to showcase football on the eastern coast from next year.

Historic Victorian club the Northern Bullants will come back from the dead to feature as a standalone team.

In a radical overhaul to the AFL feeder system, replacing the VFL and NEAFL competitions, the new competition includes eight standalone clubs, 11 teams from existing AFL clubs and three aligned clubs from the old VFL competition.

The AFL says the yet-to-be-named competition will be on a par with the WAFL in Western Australia and SANFL in South Australia as feeder leagues for the national competition, and will play out across a 16-round fixture from April.

In a poignant reminder of the impact of COVID-19 on all levels of Australian sport, the Northern Bullants - previously known as Preston, with a history dating back 138 years - were wound up at short notice after their AFL affiliate Carlton pulled their support in March. 

Carlton are one of the 12 standalone AFL clubs in the new tier-two competition.

The Bullants say their revival represents reward for hard work.

"We are delighted to confirm the Ants are back," said president Stephen Papal.

"Since the news of the Northern Blues and Carlton's 18-year alignment ended on March 26, to be in this position brings a strong sense of fulfilment and justification to a lot of hard-working individuals who have got us into this position.

"I would like to make special mention of the board of the Northern Bullants, to those hard working individuals who have worked tirelessly to continue operations of a football club with no guarantee of a happy ending."

The AFL has pledged to work with New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT "to ensure the continued development and progression of premier men's and women's competitions in the state and territory".

"The VFL and east coast second-tier competition will sit alongside the SANFL and the WAFL in 2021 to provide players with the highest level of second-tier football," an AFL statement read.

"The AFL will continue to work with all AFL clubs on their non-selected AFL players ahead of their respective 2021 seasons."

There will be different salary cap limits for the various clubs: $200,000 for standalone clubs and $100,000 for AFL and aligned clubs.

Confirmed licences:
Standalone second-tier clubs: Aspley, Coburg, Frankston, Northern Bullants, Port Melbourne, Southport, Werribee, Williamstown
Standalone AFL clubs: Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Footscray, Geelong Cats, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, North Melbourne, Richmond, Sydney Swans
Aligned Clubs: Sandringham, Box Hill Hawks, Casey Demons