Could the next Brett Bewley be lost in football’s ecosystem?
That is the question Williamstown coach Andrew Collins was asking after Bewley produced another stellar performance in his side’s 12-point win over Richmond in the Victorian Football League on Sunday.
Bewley’s scintillating form for the Seagulls only adds further weight to Collins’ belief that the VFL and the wider football development system in the state is poorer for not having the AFL Victoria Development League in operation this season.
Bewley was one of the last generation of players to come through the now defunct development league competition and could well land on an AFL list next season should his form be maintained, but Collins fears the next player to follow in the footsteps of Bewley might be lost in the transition from the TAC Cup to the VFL.
“Brett Bewley, Brayden Monk, Jake Grieser, just to name a few, these are all great stories in footy,” Collins said. “These are all guys that have played development league footy and I’m not sure they’d all come through the system if there was local footy only.”
The new system makes it harder for clubs such as Williamstown to keep tabs on their fringe players scattered around local football and identify talent.
It can be daunting for a player too, who, once called up from their local club, then have to get up to speed on a different game plan and re-introduce themselves to their teammates.
There is no longer fluidity within the system for the player, which is a concern for Collins.
“It’s been a real loss to us as a footy club,” he said. “It’s something that still remains a challenge that we haven’t conquered.”
As for Bewley, he continues to tick all the boxes for Williamstown. A well-rounded player with elite skills, a good engine and strong defensively, he should be in consideration for AFL recruiters in drafts later in the year.
“He’s just getting better and better with every game,” Collins said.
“Him, Michael Gibbons and Ben Cavarra, there’s a lot of 22, 23-year olds with their best footy ahead of them.”