Making sense of the under-18 competition structure

The TAC Cup under-18 competition is the most prestigious and elite level of junior football across the entire country. With so many youngsters doing so many different things, it’s something easy to lose track of how the TAC Cup and National Championships schedules match up.

The TAC Cup, although being a league itself, is comprised of two separate divisions: Country and Metro. Each club plays roughly the same amount of games against Metro and Country teams during the home and away season so there is no advantage to being in a certain division. Oakleigh, for example, plays nine games against Country teams and eight against Metro teams.

The two divisions are a result of so many players being eligible for state selection. As a result, there are two Victorian National Championships teams, those being Vic Country and Vic Metro.

Vic Country is comprised of the best players from Dandenong Stingrays, Bendigo Pioneers, Geelong Falcons, North Ballarat Rebels, Murray Bushrangers and Gippsland Power. Conversely, Vic Metro draws players from Oakleigh Chargers, Calder Cannons, Eastern Ranges, Northern Knights, Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets.

Although there are two divisions for state selection, these do not come into play in terms of TAC Cup finals. It is not like the NBA where the teams in the Eastern Conference play each other and the Western Conference teams play each other. Instead, the TAC Cup uses the same system as the AFL ladder and finals.

As the TAC Cup steadily grows, crowd numbers also increase. To try and get as many supporters as possible to the games, an initiative has been launched that involves either two or three games being played on the same day at bigger grounds such as Visy Park and Queen Elizabeth Oval.

The first triple header is on the Sunday of Round 1 at Visy Park. As this is a Metro Round, all of the teams in the metropolitan division will play. The games start at 10:00am with the Cannons playing the Knights, followed by the Chargers against Eastern Ranges at 12:30pm and finally the Dragons and Jets at 3:00pm.

The TAC Cup Grand Final will be held at Etihad Stadium as it has been in previous years. This year’s Grand Final will be on Sunday the 22nd of September.

Preliminary rounds of the National Championships will be played throughout the year. Interestingly, Vic Country’s first game against Northern Territory will take place on the same day as a Country Round. This means that the stronger rural teams may field a depleted squad, leaving the lowly-ranked teams with an opportunity to strike.

The schedule for a youngster with hopes to get into the AFL is incredibly busy, especially when you bring school commitments into account. However, the experience gained through playing in the TAC Cup and National Championships certainly can’t be replicated elsewhere.

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