AFL Canberra clubs are confident next year's new-look six-team first-grade competition will set the groundwork for a strong base for years to come.
Following the reduction from five Canberra teams to just two in the North East Australian Football League, the AFL Canberra competition has undergone a revamp.
Canberra's two remaining clubs in the NEAFL – Ainslie and Eastlake – will also field teams in the AFL Canberra first-grade competition.
They will be joined by the Belconnen Magpies, Queanbeyan Tigers, Tuggeranong Hawks and the Gungahlin Jets.
In other changes, the Mulrooney Medal has been reinstated as the award for the AFL Canberra first grade best and fairest, the Alex Jesaulenko Medal will be presented to the best on ground in the grand final, the Jack Dorman Cup will be the premiership trophy and the 10-team women's competition will be split into two divisions based on results mid-way through the season.
Players from Belconnen, Queanbeyan, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin who have ambitions to progress in the NEAFL will be able to do that with either Ainslie or Eastlake.
Each team in the first-grade competition will play 15 games in the regular season, starting on May 2 and culminating in the grand final on September 20.
There will also be three games at each ground, with the first grade joined by reserve grade and the Rising Stars competition for under-18s.
Marist will also field a team in the Rising Stars competition.
Belconnen president Scott Reid said having three grades play on the same day was a massive positive.
"We're the only club to have a team in every grade so at district level we're trying to align that with three teams playing on one day and three teams at another venue," Reid said.
"As for the NEAFL, we have a very good relationship with Ainslie.
"If we have a young bloke coming through the system and he's ticking all the boxes, then we have a line of communication that will enable to them to go to that level."
Eastlake football manager Stephen Soulsby said the changes produced the best outcomes for AFL Canberra and the clubs after a difficult period.
He was also pleased to see the Mulrooney Medal returned to the AFL Canberra competition after it was the premier individual prize in the NEAFL Eastern Conference from 2011-13.
"It's important that you continue to have your historic connections to your competition," Soulsby said.
"Obviously the Mulrooney was in AFL Canberra prior to the NEAFL coming in and moved up with the NEAFL.
"It's good we've been able to get a good structure underneath in the AFL Canberra competition to ensure there's still a strong competition in Canberra at a local level."
AFL NSW/ACT regional manager Steve Mahar said the restructure was designed to build a competition that the next generation of players could aspire to.
"We want to re-establish the AFL Canberra competition as a strong and vibrant competition where teams have a strong connection to the community," Mahar said.
"We also want players to see a very clear pathway to play at the highest level without leaving the club they grew up playing juniors for."