AFL Futures match
Other namesAFL All Stars Futures match
SportAustralian rules football
First meeting2016
Latest meeting2023
Next meeting2024
StadiumsMelbourne Cricket Ground
Meetings total6

The AFL Futures match is an annual all-star game between two representative sides consisting of the most talented under-17 Australian rules footballers. Organised by the Australian Football League (AFL) as part of its talent pathways program, the match is played as a curtain raiser to the AFL grand final. It was first contested in 2016 at Punt Road Oval on the morning of the AFL grand final; since 2018, the match has been played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).


Underage representative football has its roots in the Teal Cup, which was first established in 1953 as a one-off match between of an under-18 Queensland representative team and an under-16 New South Wales representative team.[1] The Teal Cup became an annual event from 1963 onwards; at the same time the age qualification was established as under-17.[1] In 1973, the competition included teams outside of Queensland and New South Wales for the first time, and by 1979, all eight Australian states and territories were competing in what was the preeminent under-17 representative football event.[1] The Teal Cup was rebranded as the AFL National Under 18 Championships in 1996, and thus under-17 representative football was limited at a higher level.[2]

After almost two decades, under-17 representative football returned in earnest with the NAB AFL All Stars match taking place on the morning of the 2014 AFL grand final between an under-17 AFL Academy side and an under-18 Allies side.[3] To that point, the AFL had not scheduled a curtain raiser match at the MCG on grand final day since 2007, which was the final time the TAC Cup (now known as the Talent League) held its decider on the Saturday morning.[4] Teams would compete for the Kevin Sheehan Trophy, named after the former Geelong footballer turned national talent identification manager.[5] The All Stars match was reprised the following year before the 2015 AFL grand final, where the Allies again defeated the AFL Academy.[6]


In 2016, the AFL decided to schedule two underage all-star games in the lead-up to the grand final, showcasing the best young football talent to both recruiters and the general public.[7] Two teams, named after retired AFL stars Chris Judd and Michael O'Loughlin, would compete against each other in two age groups: the under-18s on the Friday following the parade, and the under-17s on the Saturday prior to the main event.[7] In the days preceding the inaugural clash, the under-17 match was moved from the MCG to Punt Road Oval due to inclement weather raising concerns of surface deterioration before the feature match between Sydney and the Western Bulldogs.[8] As was the case in the All Stars matches of 2014 and 2015, teams competed for the Kevin Sheehan Trophy, and a best-on-ground medal sponsored by NAB was awarded.[9]

The dual-match format returned in 2017, this time with the under-18 All Stars match acting as the AFL grand final curtain raiser, and the under-17 match played on the Friday prior.[10] However, this would be the final time the under-18 match would take place, as it was deemed an additional burden to players' increasingly full schedules ahead of the draft combine the following week.[10] This allowed the under-17 All Stars Futures match to take centre stage on grand final day in 2018, and apart from its hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the match has remained as the MCG's curtain raiser each year since.

Match history

2016–2018: The first three years

The inaugural AFL Futures match was held in 2016. Team Judd were victors by 13 points over Team O'Loughlin, maintaining a slender lead at every break to take the win despite having less scoring shots. Team Judd, coached by outgoing AFL Academy mentor Brenton Sanderson, were led by strong performances from midfielders Lochie O'Brien (20 disposals, two goals) and Hunter Clark (21 disposals), while tall forward Darcy Fogarty was named best on ground. Jack Higgins finished with 24 disposals and a goal to be Team O'Loughlin's best, having gathered 16 touches to half-time.[11]

Izak Rankine created headlines in 2017 when he lined up for both Team Enright and Team Harvey in the former's 39-point win at Kardinia Park. Played on the Friday prior to the AFL grand final for the only time in the match's short history, the South Australian draft prospect kicked two first-half goals for Team Enright to help them create a 45-point buffer at the long break. Ahead of the third quarter, Rankine was switched to the opposing team to even out the contest following numerous injuries to Team Harvey. He kicked a goal for his new side and inspired them to draw back within 24 points at three-quarter-time, and although the margin blew out once more in the final term, was gifted best-on-ground honours.[12]

In 2018, potential number-one draft pick Matt Rowell was touted as a player to watch following his TAC Cup grand final best-on-ground medal performance for Oakleigh Chargers the week prior. As predicted, Rowell earned his second medal in as many weeks to lift Team Bartel to a 42-point win over Team Riewoldt, racking up 27 disposals and a goal in a best-on-ground display. Rowell's teammate Caleb Serong finished with an identical stat line, while Bigoa Nyuon led the goalkicking with three majors.[13]

2019–2021: Largest margin and COVID-19 hiatus

Team Brown kicked 11 goals to four after half-time in 2019 to defeat Team Dal Santo by 41 points in what is, to the end of 2022, the largest winning margin by any team. The victors had six multiple goalkickers, led by best-on-ground medal winner Braeden Campbell with three majors, while captain Elijah Hollands gathered 24 disposals to go with his two goals.[14]

The AFL Futures match went on hiatus in both 2020 and 2021 while the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in Victoria, prevented large portions of underage football from being played. In each of these seasons, the AFL National Championships were also cancelled, resulting in precious little representative football opportunities for draft hopefuls.[15]

2022–present: The match returns

The match returned in 2022 with teams named after 2021 retirees Bachar Houli and Marc Murphy, who each gave mentoring sessions to the two squads in the lead-up to the game.[16] Team Houli took advantage of a shockingly wasteful Team Murphy to run out winners by 28 points, with West Australian Daniel Curtin (20 disposals, eight marks) adjudged best afield. Team Murphy midfielder Caiden Cleary was the first player to top the 30-disposal mark in an AFL Futures match, amassing 31 touches and six inside-50s for the game.[17]

The first AFL Futures match to be decided by under a goal took place in 2023, when Team Naitanui defeated Team Selwood by just three points. In a see-sawing encounter, Team Naitanui trailed at both quarter-time and half-time, but grabbed the ascendancy in the third quarter and surged to a 27-point lead with 12 minutes remaining in the final term. Team Selwood, inspired by potential father-son selection Levi Ashcroft (26 disposals and a goal), then kicked four late goals to give their opponents an almighty scare. Another potential father-son pick, Team Naitanui's Ben Camporeale (whose twin brother Lucas played on the opposing side), was awarded the best-on-ground medal for his 30-disposal, eight-mark performance.[18]

Records and statistics

Match results

Year Winner Runners-up Score Venue Date Ref.
2016 Team Judd Team O'Loughlin 11.8 (74) d. 8.13 (61) Punt Road Oval Saturday 1 October 2016 [19][11]
2017 Team Enright Team Harvey 13.13 (91) d. 7.10 (52) Simonds Stadium Friday 29 September 2017 [10][12]
2018 Team Bartel Team Riewoldt 15.10 (100) d. 8.10 (58) Melbourne Cricket Ground Saturday 29 September 2018 [20][13]
2019 Team Brown Team Dal Santo 16.6 (102) d. 9.7 (61) Melbourne Cricket Ground Saturday 28 September 2019 [21][14]
2020 No match played due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria
2021 No match played due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria
2022 Team Houli Team Murphy 10.8 (68) d. 4.16 (40) Melbourne Cricket Ground Saturday 24 September 2022 [16][17]
2023 Team Naitanui Team Selwood 10.14 (74) d. 10.11 (71) Melbourne Cricket Ground Saturday 30 September 2023 [18]

Best-on-ground medal

Year Player Team Ref.
2016 Darcy Fogarty Team Judd [9]
2017 Izak Rankine Team Enright / Team Harvey[a] [12]
2018 Matt Rowell Team Bartel [13]
2019 Braeden Campbell Team Brown [14]
2020 No medal awarded
2021 No medal awarded
2022 Daniel Curtin Team Houli [17]
2023 Ben Camporeale Team Naitanui [18]


Each coach to have guided a team in a Futures match has generally been selected for their prior involvement with underage football, which often stems from their previous involvement with the game at the highest level. To the end of 2023, only two coaches (Tony Bamford and Andrew Sturgess) had not played in the AFL; indeed, every other coach had played at least 150 AFL matches.[22] Luke Power is the only person to have coached in a Futures match on two occasions, with his involvement in 2018 and 2019.

Year Team Coach
2016 Team Judd Brenton Sanderson
Team O'Loughlin Tadhg Kennelly
2017 Team Enright Brad Johnson
Team Harvey Peter Sumich
2018 Team Bartel Tony Bamford
Team Riewoldt Luke Power
2019 Team Brown Luke Power
Team Dal Santo Leigh Brown
2020 No match played
2021 No match played
2022 Team Houli Nick Davis
Team Murphy Travis Cloke
2023 Team Selwood Mark McVeigh
Team Naitanui Andrew Sturgess

Impact and legacy

The AFL Futures match is typically seen as the strongest representation of the following year's draft class, with eye-catching performances in front of club scouts elevating players' recruiting potential. As of 2023, every best-on-ground medal winner was selected in the first round of the AFL national draft in their first year of eligibility; three of the four winners were taken within the first five picks. 2022 winner Daniel Curtin is eligible for selection in the 2023 AFL draft, where phantom drafts have predicted him to be selected within the top ten.[23] 2023 winner Ben Camporeale has been heavily touted as a potential father-son selection for Carlton in the 2024 draft.[18]

Even mere representation in the two teams is a strong indicator of being selected in the following year's draft. Of the 52 players selected in the squads for the first AFL Futures match in 2016, 33 of those players went on to be drafted or selected by an AFL club at some point.[19][22] This figure peaked in 2019, where 39 of that year's 48 listed players made it on to an AFL list, a success rate of more than 81 per cent.[22]


  1. ^ Rankine played the first half of the match for Team Enright before switching to Team Harvey for the second half.


  1. ^ a b c Carey, Bill (2012-09-08). NSW Memories of the Teal Cup: 1953–1995. Croydon Park, New South Wales: NSW Australian Football History Society Inc.
  2. ^ Cauchi, Stephen (1996-07-15). "Vic Metro too good for SA in U-18 title". The Age. p. 49.
  3. ^ Twomey, Callum (2014-09-26). "Allies triumph over All-Stars in Grand Final curtain-raiser". Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  4. ^ Twomey, Callum (2014-09-01). "Young talent to grace MCG on Grand Final day". Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  5. ^ "Allies claim Kevin Sheehan Trophy | AFL Queensland". AFL Queensland. 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  6. ^ Twomey, Callum (2015-10-03). "Allies win over the NAB AFL Academy in Grand Final curtain-raiser". Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  7. ^ a b Guthrie, Ben (2016-08-09). "Under-age showcase to kick off Grand Final". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  8. ^ Warren, Liam (2016-10-10). "Experience was one to remember for Nathan". The Daily Advertiser. Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.
  9. ^ a b "U17 All Stars ultimate review". Aussie Rules Rookie Me Central. 2016-10-02. Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  10. ^ a b c Twomey, Callum (2017-09-29). "Elite young guns to light up Grand Final curtain-raiser". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  11. ^ a b Twomey, Callum (2016-10-01). "Clark, O'Brien top 2017 class after MCG exhibition". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  12. ^ a b c Twomey, Callum (2017-09-29). "Two sides to gun's day". North Melbourne Football Club. Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  13. ^ a b c Twomey, Callum (2018-09-29). "Potential 2019 No.1 pick dominates All Stars game". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  14. ^ a b c Twomey, Callum (2019-09-28). "Future Swan stars in Grand Final curtain-raiser". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  15. ^ Higgins, Ben (2021-09-03). "Draft hopefuls dealt blow as NAB League, Vic Metro, Country called off". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  16. ^ a b "Team Houli and Team Murphy selected for NAB AFL Futures match". 2022-09-23. Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  17. ^ a b c Twomey, Callum (2022-09-24). "WA teenager Daniel Curtin dominates in AFL Futures game". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  18. ^ a b c d Twomey, Callum (2023-09-30). "Famous names shine as 2024 draft crop puts on a show". Retrieved 2023-10-02.
  19. ^ a b Twomey, Callum (2016-10-04). "WATCH IT LIVE: Top prospects on show in U17 Futures Game". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  20. ^ Twomey, Callum (2018-09-04). "Teams named for U17 'Futures' GF curtain-raiser". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  21. ^ Twomey, Callum (2019-08-30). "Young guns on show in Under-17 NAB All Stars 'Futures' clash". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  22. ^ a b c "Every AFL Draft Pick and Trade Ever". Draftguru. 2023-09-27. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  23. ^ Twomey, Callum (2023-09-12). "Cal Twomey's Phantom Form Guide: Top draft prospects' September ranking". Retrieved 2023-09-27.