Kade Klemke warns Canberra could lose its best AFL prospects if the capital is left out of a second-tier competition next year.
Concern surrounding the NEAFL's future was exacerbated on Saturday when the Brisbane Lions confirmed they were pushing to be part of an expanded VFL competition from next year.
The NEAFL houses reserves sides for the Lions, Sydney Swans, GWS Giants and Gold Coast Suns, and would be left with just six teams if those clubs withdrew.
The second-tier competition bridges the gap between club football and the AFL, giving local talent a chance to be drafted via the Canberra Demons.
Klemke fears local prospects would be forced to move interstate if Canberra was not part of an NEAFL-replacement competition.
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The Demons coach hopes the AFL continues to develop the capital's pathway to the national stage by maintaining the presence of a second-tier competition.
"You'd hope the competition continues in some form so we can keep young talent in local areas," Klemke said.
"The NEAFL competition had made a genuine pathway to get drafted from. There's a lot of aspiring academy players here, we want them to step out and play for local sides like the Demons.
"We'd hate to lose them because the NEAFL didn't continue. We want to see the best young talent get drafted while still being at home, without having to go to other state leagues.
"I hope the AFL is thinking about that and continues to develop a pathway through these areas.
"We've done a lot of work with the Canberra Demons over the years to really build the club. It's only going into its fifth year and you'd hate to see all the hard work go to waste."
Canberra's NEAFL campaign has been put on halt amid the coronavirus pandemic and the club is seeking clarity on the competition's resumption.
The NEAFL initially provided a revised start date of May 31 to fall in line with other state competitions, but league officials are yet to provide an update on its format and fixtures.
Klemke expects his players will look to play in local competitions if the NEAFL season is cancelled.
"If NEAFL doesn't go ahead the next question will be what the local competitions are doing," Klemke said.
"A lot of guys will look to step back and play in a local competition whether that be in Canberra or back home.
"I know there's already clubs thinking NEAFL won't go ahead but I think we can't start making decisions and telling guys what to do until we know what the league is doing."
Canberra sporting teams are now allowed to start training in groups of 20, but the Demons have decided to remain in small groups until the season's future is clarified.