The draft age will remain at 18 for the foreseeable future, but the AFL will start investing more heavily in talented older prospects and late developers.

The league plans to establish and connect under-21 academies to the WAFL, SANFL and NEAFL – similar to that run by AFL Victoria – to enhance the development of post draft-age players and showcase them through state-of-origin style matches or a national under-21 series.

In time the league hopes the academies will be a legitimate option for players who are not physically prepared for the AFL, have prioritised schoolwork or decide not to nominate for the draft at 18 for other reasons, but for now there are no plans to move the draft age to 19.

The league hopes to conduct academic research into the pros and con of any future increase – rather than relying on anecdotal evidence – but doesn't believe it has the resources to support pushing the eligible age out further, to 21.

"There's no compelling case to move it now. People are equally passionate for and against, and without a distinct change in any of the other models around the talent pathway, it's likely to remain as is," the AFL's

"Barring a massive change in the model – where we say we're not going to draft kids until they're 21, and there's a program that sits above school and is like a genuine college system where you'd either have to pay for their education or pay them because they're adult working age – you couldn't possibly go with the recommendation of changing the draft age."

The establishment of the academies is one of many recommendations to have come from the the league's broad review of the talent pathway, which was followed by an full-day forum and working group discussions.

Other recommendations include:

* Working closer with private schools to ensure players are not overloaded, perhaps establishing a school accreditation system so that those doing the right things become AFL endorsed; 

* Capping the number of games players are able to play in their draft year, and managing the elite prospects' game-time, welfare and other matters centrally and more comprehensively; 

* Giving the best young players more "work experience" opportunities at AFL clubs, in up to three one or two week blocks;  

* Bringing small groups of promising international players out to Australia for short training blocks to give clubs the chance to look at them more closely, but capping the salaries able to be offered to those players so that teams can compete evenly for them; 

* Appointing an AFL-based recruiter (or a number of state-based consultants) to scout talented players from younger ages and work with the states when selecting academy squads, so that the best players are chosen; and 

* Appointing a player welfare manager to work with the most talented players around the country on their off-field development, in consultation with the states.

The review also produced several recommendations relating to how talented indigenous players from remote areas could be given a greater chance of playing long careers, including a mentoring scheme that would match current-day AFL players with talented youngsters.

Other options include establishing a program whereby AFL clubs could work closely with indigenous prospects in their area, a school scholarship program, and having AFL recruiting staff complete cultural awareness courses.