The VFL competition will return to an 18-game home and away season in 2022, an adjusted 23rd player rule has been reinstated, and clubs have been given a 10 per cent increase in their salary cap as part of a host of rule changes released by the AFL.
After 2021 was initially set down for 16 matches across 19 rounds, the new fixture will start on the weekend of March 26-27 and feature 22 rounds, with the 21 clubs receiving four byes each.
Matches, dates and starting times will again align with the AFL schedule wherever possible, but each club will receive nine home matches as they welcome their loyal members and supporters back to the footy.
The salary cap has been increased from $200,000 to $220,000 for VFL standalone clubs and from $100,000 to $110,000 for the AFL and AFL-aligned outfits, with a key concession added in a bid to encourage senior experienced players to remain in the competition and develop their coaching skills.
Clubs can pay $10,000 outside the cap for playing coaches, with a number of clubs already having announced a strong line-up of playing coaches for 2022.
A $5000 concession has also been added to employ indigenous coaches in a bid to encourage more of our indigenous footballers to follow a coaching pathway after their playing careers.
AFL and aligned clubs will again have 30 players on their lists, but the number of development players required has been reduced from 18 to 15 and the primary list increased from 12 to 15, again creating extra opportunities for experienced players to join or stay in the competition.
The VFL standalone list size of 28 primary and 12 development-listed players for a total of 40 remains in place.
Indigenous players who have yet to make their VFL debuts can now also be signed as Category B development players.
The 23rd-player rule removed for the 2021 season has been reinstated, but the 60 per cent game time restriction will not return.
The extra player must be aged under 20 (on January 1, 2022) for AFL and aligned clubs, be an under-20 development-lister, NAB Leaguer or active Northern Academy (Swans, Giants, Lions, Suns) member and can only be used in that role four times in the home-and-away season.
The change increases the requirement for clubs to name seven players under the age of 22 (at January 1) from this year’s six, noting this number includes AFL-listed players.
The 23rd-player rule does not apply to the seven VFL standalone clubs, who will still only be required to select six under-22s, meaning their extra player can come from either their primary or development lists.
AFL State League competitions manager Jennie Loughnan said the return of the VFL provided great optimism for football clubs across Victoria, NSW and Queensland.
"Our VFL clubs have been pillars of Australian football and their local communities for many years and they have been missed during an interrupted two seasons," she said.
"Football is the heartbeat of communities across Australia and state-league football provides a strong link between the elite game and the next tier of future stars.
"The return of VFL in 2022 provides excitement back to these communities who have been through a challenging period with limited football.
"Although we have to be vigilant, aware and responsible throughout the season, we cannot overstate the excitement of everybody connected to the VFL about the 2022 season.
"Last season was devastating to everyone connected to community football ... the stop-start nature of the competition made it challenging for all involved and the AFL is proud of how all VFL clubs, players, officials, supporters and corporate partners managed through a difficult year and kept their communities engaged and connected.
"The VFL community is very important to the Australian football ecosystem – all 21 clubs play a vital role in keeping their suburban and regional networks engaged and are so important to growing and nurturing our national code.
"Bring on round one!"
2022 VFL RULES
(All age requirements refer to the player’s age on January 1, 2022)
- Increases to $220,000 for VFL standalones and $110,000 for AFL and aligned clubs.
- Concessions of $10,000 outside the cap allowed for development coaches and $5000 for indigenous coaches.
- Clubs must pay at least 90 per cent of the cap.
- Primary list consists of all open age players
- Development lists are made up of two categories:
- Category A: NAB League or Northern Academy players who are still engaged in the talent pathway program, aged under 22.
- Category B: Next Generation Academy graduates, alternative sport athletes or indigenous players of any age as long they have not made their VFL debut.
- VFL standalone clubs can sign any player under 22 to their development list (no NAB League or Academy requirement).
- VFL standalone clubs have 40 listed players (28 primary, 12 development).
- AFL and aligned clubs have 30 listed players (15 primary, 15 development including maximum of 13 Category A).
- Clubs can make a maximum of 16 changes to their list during the home-and-away season (6 primary, 10 development), with any player signed after June 30 needing to play three matches to qualify for the finals.
- All clubs to field 23 players per match, comprising the following:
- VFL standalone: A minimum of six under-22 players.
- AFL and aligned: A minimum of seven under-22 players, including a 23rd man who must be an active 18-19yo player from the club’s development list, an aligned NAB League club or Northern Academy. Under-18 players must be approved by the AFL and a player cannot be named 23rd man more than four times in a season without approval.
AFL CLUB ALIGNMENTS
- Box Hill Hawks: Hawthorn
- Brisbane: Brisbane
- Carlton: Carlton
- Casey Demons: Melbourne
- Collingwood: Collingwood
- Essendon: Essendon
- Footscray: Western Bulldogs
- Geelong: Geelong
- Gold Coast: Gold Coast
- GWS Giants: Greater Western Sydney
- North Melbourne: North Melbourne
- Richmond: Richmond
- Sandringham: St Kilda
- Sydney: Sydney
VFL standalone clubs are not subject to alignments and can list players on their primary or development lists from the open market.