New under 18s competiton

THE 2019 fixture for the under 18 football competition formally known as the TAC Cup has been released.

The Victorian competition has been expanded to include Tasmania, while the Northern Territory and the academies of AFL clubs the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast, Sydney and Greater Western Sydney will each play five matches.

The additions means Victorian teams will play interstate teams for the first time since 2016.

Tasmania’s entry to the competition has resulted in the introduction of byes for certain clubs in most home-and-away rounds, while there will also be five study/development weekends throughout the season when no games are played.

The 17-round home-and-away season begins on Saturday, March 23, and will again lead into a Wildcard Round, this year featuring all teams from fourth on the ladder down to 13th playing off for the right to advance to a four-week finals series.

As opposed to the 2018 finals series structure — when four elimination finals preceded two preliminary finals and the grand final — the 2019 structure will resemble the traditional AFL finals series, with qualifying and elimination finals in the first week, followed by semi-finals, preliminary finals and then the grand final.

Gippsland Power will play its first match against the Murray Bushrangers at Punt Road Oval, Richmond on March 23.

The Power will travel to Sydney to play the GWS Giants academy on April 27. It will play Tasmania at Box Hill on July 20.

Rounds 11 and 12 will be ‘Futures Rounds’, when teams will be required to field a certain number of bottom age or 16-year-old players while the AFL national under 18 championships are taking place.

The season concludes in round 17 with two lots of triple-headers, with Gippsland to play at Bendigo on August 18.

Entering its third season, the girls’ competition will have expanded finals series.

The top four teams on the ladder after nine rounds will play off in the semi-finals.

The 12 Victorian teams from the first two seasons will compete again this year.

The season begins on Saturday, March 2, and will have two competition-wide byes.

After having the Transport Accident Commission as its naming rights sponsor for its first 27 seasons, the competition will have a new partner, to be announced later this month.