The AFL season might be reaching a crescendo in Australia as grand final day looms, but the sport faces a more uncertain future in New Zealand.

While an increasing number of young New Zealand footballers are being lured across the Tasman by AFL clubs, Auckland's Australian Rules league has been battling with a fluctuating player base.

The Auckland AFL (AAFL) previously had full senior and reserve grades, but this year it has one division with six teams.

Australian Rules is played over the summer in New Zealand so as not to clash with rugby, league and football.


AAFL official Jarrod Darlington said the rejig was because of difficulty in accommodating two divisions.

"Numbers this season are up on last year, [but] we thought let's scrap it for a few years, as it was unfair on some clubs to have two teams."

He said the end of a "golden" period for Aussie Rules in Auckland as older players left the game led to the removal of the reserve grade in 2012.

Players from the Auckland league make up the regional squad that plays in the national provincial championship, from which the New Zealand side is selected.

Auckland contributed more players than any other region to the national side at the International Rules Cup in August.

The New Zealand Hawks finished third at the Cup behind Ireland and winners Papua New Guinea.