Essendon VFL will be one of 22 teams competing in a combined VFL and east coast second-tier competition in 2021, with clubs to be based in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

The largest second-tier football competition in Australia is set to begin in April next year and will consist of a 16-round season, providing all players with a premium standard of football. 

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

The VFL and east coast second-tier competition will integrate into a streamlined calendar for men’s football with the 2021 NAB League Boys, with both seasons set to begin in April, running concurrently with the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.

All clubs will have connections to community clubs and pathway programs, including a varied alignment to Under-19 NAB League clubs for Victorian-based teams.

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The name of the competition will be announced in the coming weeks with the competition to maintain a strong connection to the heritage of the respective Hard Yakka / Totally workwear VFL and Toyota NEAFL competitions and the communities who support them.

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

The AFL will continue to work closely with AFL NSW/ACT and AFL Queensland to ensure the continued development and progression of premier men’s and women’s competitions in the State and Territory.

The salary cap is set at $200,000 for standalone clubs and $100,000 for AFL and aligned clubs. As previously communicated, there will be no licence fee payable by any club to participate in the 2021 second-tier competition with the AFL to subsidise all approved club travel for interstate matches.

A date for commencement of pre-season training ahead of the 2021 season will be advised in due course.

The AFL will continue to review all arrangements including return-to-train and return-to-play protocols in consultation with clubs, the various State Governments and respective Health Officers to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in this competition remains the priority.