EDITORIAL: FITTING FINALES

Posted on - Latest News

12.09.09
FITTING FINALES TO FESTIVAL OF FOOTBALL.
It’s another big weekend of VAFA football with fourteen premierships to be decided. This, together with the A, B and D4 preliminary finals, makes another cocktail of dramatic finales.  The VAFA is a feast of football. Whilst these matches contain emotion filled afternoons, our promotion and relegation system provides each final with a tale as engrossing as any grand final day.
This year I have already watched three grand finals and twelve other finals, witnessing the extreme emotions of success and failure.  I must admit that I am getting a little dizzy with all the action. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at Sportscover Arena on Sunday to witness the first ever draw in an A Section final.  The extra-time concept to find a winner was a success and whilst the St Bedes Mentone Tigers’ supporters may have left a little glum it was reported to me that the atmosphere was electric. 
Extra-time has been often debated amongst the media commentators and during the off season, the VAFA Board will decide on whether to implement this rule into the home and away rounds.
The inaugural Under18 competition culminates in the Grand Final on Saturday between Oakleigh and St Bernard’s at Central Reserve.  Eight teams this first season and already we have had expressions of interest from another 10 clubs considering entering teams in 2010.  This match precedes the U19 Premier Grand Final between Old Xaverians and De La Salle.  It is interesting to note that the three top teams in the A Section finals filled the top three places in the Under 19s and the grand finalists in the U18s both had their senior teams in their respective finals.  The strong clubs thrive throughout all their teams, not just at one particular level.
Of the four senior sections that have concluded their preliminary finals, it is interesting to note that only one rebounded from a second semi final loss. Congratulations to Oakleigh, Fitzroy, Williamstown, St Mary’s Salesian and Kew who gained promotion to the higher sections. Oakleigh have risen to B Section for the first time in their 18 year VAFA history. It has been steady progress for the Krushers, and this may make them even stronger as they chase their ultimate goal of playing in A Section.  The bar has been set by St Bedes Mentone Tigers and Oakleigh, and other clubs, will try to jump it.
To finalise the line-ups for next year, St Kevins play Old Trinity in the B Section preliminary final. Both teams are not long from the Premier Section and I am sure are eager to return.
This is my last editorial for the season and I want to close with a plea to our young community.
It is at this time of the year, when VAFA players are celebrating their season, which they are at their most vulnerable.  
Players can show as much courage and discipline on the ground but it is off it where they can be most at risk.  I am not saying don’t drink and enjoy each others mateship, but please always be aware of situations where violence can occur.
Keep your wits about you and know how to avoid possible confrontation.
The VAFA has not been immune from the violence on our streets and two of our brightest young players fell victim to needless assaults and have been left with enduring injuries. 
The VAFA congratulates all finalists.  When celebrating your season, please do so with moderation and care, with respect for others and yourself.
Quick thinking on the field can stop a goal or get one for your team. Such decision-making is also vital when a few seconds can change or ruin lives.
Take it, but take it easy. We want to see you back in 2010.
5.9.09
CLUBS NEW AND OLD ON THE RISE
Last Tuesday, the VAFA announced the inclusion for 2010 of the Point Cook Amateur Football Club as the competition’s seventy – fourth football club.
Discussions had been in progress for over a year and we are delighted to welcome then into the Amateurs. Point Cook commenced as a junior club in the Western Region Football League and now boast fourteen teams. Next season, it is hopeful of going straight into D4, fielding two senior teams.
Point Cook services an expanding community adjacent to the Sanctuary Lakes Golf Course, with a population of 45,000. It is anticipated that the community will have to establish another junior football club as just one struggles to cope with the rapidly expanding demand.
It is vital that the VAFA continues to expand into new and developing communities as we provide an alternative to the metropolitan leagues.
Point Cook, along with Werribee, Old Westbourne, and Williamstown CYMS gives us a strong presence in the West which makes the task of gaining umpires that much easier when there are matches played weekly.
The previous two clubs to join the VAFA, St Francis Xavier and South Mornington have enjoyed early success. St Francis Xavier is playing in the D3 Preliminary Final against St Marys / Salesian while
On behalf of every section of the VAFA, we welcome Point Cook, whose Number #1 Ticket holder is Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. We wish them every success in their journey.
At the other end of the scale we have Old Xaverians and De La Salle meeting for the first time in a final since 1993. Both of these clubs have had incredibly successful seasons throughout their clubs. Old Xaverians has had five teams contesting finals (Senior, Reserves, U19s, and Club XVIII 1 & 2) Much has been spoken about the revival of De La and it deserves much credit. It has had three teams in finals (Senior, U19s 1 & 2). In the Under 19s last week, these clubs displayed their junior talents with Xavs holding off the fast finishing De La by just four points.
The U19 competition is providing a genuine pathway for our clubs as they work on development rather than recruitment to provide success. This is also evident in B Section with minor premiers Old Melburnians also leading the way in U19 South 1 after winning a Club XVIII premiership a fortnight ago. They are certainly in the hunt for four premierships with the seconds also alive and playing in today’s second semi final.
All clubs need to be aligning themselves with a junior football club or institution to provide a pathway for young footballers.
Congratulations to MHSOB who have gained promotion along with Rupertswood (D1), Peninsula (D2), Bentleigh (D3), and Latrobe Uni have joined Albert Park in D4. Today more teams will be rewarded with promotion and the opportunity to win a premiership. The clash at Sandringham between Oakleigh and Caulfield Grammarians promises to be a beauty. Whilst the Grammarians have led the competition all year, the loss last week to MHSOB will surely stir them into action and test their mental strength.
Good luck to all clubs. I urge all spectators to adhere to the VAFA rules and respect the players and officials who are completing their tasks to the best of their ability.
29.08.09
FOOTBALL FEAST
Club XVIII Grand Final day is one of the biggest weekends at Sportscover Arena and congratulations to the four premiers – Collegians, Old Brighton, Old Essendon and Old Melburnians.  Approximately 3000 people attended the ground to watch these games and I am sure everyone was sufficiently entertained to mark it in their diary for next year.
That said, this weekend is unique in the VAFA because our clubs can be at once, finishing the home and away season, playing finals and celebrating the post-season.
This weekend is also is our most difficult administratively. Our Umpiring Department must arrange field, goal and boundary umpires for 32 finals and 20 A and B section matches. The VAFA hosts all finals and we require volunteers to be ground managers at each of the venues.
Outstanding work by our Football Department has meant that we have been able to secure great grounds including the Junction and Sandringham and in the following weeks, Box Hill, and Preston.
Whilst this week may present its difficulties logistically, it also provides us with some intriguing matches. 
In both A and B Section there are virtual qualifying finals, with De La Salle and St Bede’s Mentone Tigers battling for the right to play Old Xaverians and St Kevin’s and St Bernard’s meeting for the right to take on Old Melburnians in next week’s respective second semis. 
De La has surprised A Section teams with their brave running and sharing of the ball.  No doubt they will need to maintain confidence in their game plan if they are to defeat the Tigers, who appear to be peaking at the right time.
B Section has arguably been our most competitive and this week, each match has significance on either finals or relegation. It is not often you get a true R18 relegation battle and the Ormond and Hampton Rovers clash is, for mine, the match of the round.  This will be cut-throat football at its best and there will be no holds spared at Boss James Reserve. Trinity will need to win against the fast finishing Carey to stave off the Uni blacks’ challenge for the four.
With C-D4 finals on us this weekend, four senior teams will be celebrating promotion on Sunday night, while five will be out of the race for 2009.  The dual prizes of premiership and promotion makes all these games that much more riveting. Caulfield, Rupertswood, Peninsula and Bentleigh go into the second semi-finals as favourites against MHSOB, Werribee, Williamstown and St Francis Xavier respectively.  D4 have final five with La Trobe Uni playing and the winner playing minor premiers Albert Park next week.
Friday night at Sportscover Arena will see another wonderful experience for our junior players with our inaugural Under 18 finals. The two standout teams, Northern Bullantsand Oakleigh have met three times during the season, and it’s with 2-1 in favour of Oakleigh. 
It’s a feast of football action that might just be my favourite VAFA weekend? Or does it get even better next week, with preliminary finals on the menu?
Whatever your favourite weekend of VAFA football, I am confident you will need your copy of Amateur Footballer at hand to check on ladders, promotions and next week’s matchups as the results come flooding in.     

22.08.09 
ENDINGS AND NEW BEGINNINGS
This weekend marks the final round for 138 of our 242 teams while many of the others are battling to the wire in this intriguing season.
The highlights this weekend are our four Club XVIII grand finals. One is being played under lights on Friday night and the other three in an action- packed Sunday at Sportscover Arena.  If you have never been to this day, I can highly recommend your attendance. There are not many places where you can see three senior grand finals on one day.  The crowds are large, emotions run high and the stress is enormous. It can be that a single mistake means a premiership slips from grasp and it is interesting to see the composure of club XVIII players who usually play without spectator support (or non-support).
We are anticipating big crowds on Sunday with six different clubs represented – Old Xaverians (2) v Collegians, Marcellin v Old Brighton and Old Ivanhoe facing Old Essendon.  On Friday, Ormond take on Old Melburnians.
The other Sections are playing their ultimate or penultimate rounds and as usual, there are many scenarios at both ends of the ladders. Next season, D3 will consist of 12 teams resulting in only one club being relegated and three promoted.  The bottom of D3 has been incredible.  One week, clubs have been staving off the dreaded drop only to find a victory places them with a shot for a finals berth.  This battle has gone on for the entire second half of the season and we will have Elsternwick and St John’s battling for the fourth spot and one of Monash Gryphons or Power House relegated.
D4 has been very competitive at the top end.  The incentive of three being promoted and a final five has provided a real motivation in this section. La Trobe’s loss at Kew has seen Albert Park go a game clear who head out to Mt Lilydale. Mt Lilydale must win to hold off South Morningtonfor fifth place.  There is a great reward for the minor premiers, as they get the weeks rest and the opportunity to watch their fellow-combatants slug it out.
Incredibly all positions in C Section has been finalised with Caulfield, MHSOB, Beaumaris and Oakleigh marching onto the finals whilst Monash Blues and Bulleen Templestowe go down to D1.  That section has the final four settled but it is in the bottom end that holds the interest.  Ninth placed Aquinas is at home to Emmaus, which is certain to be relegated. They are in battle with South Melbourne, which hosts a Prahran that have lost by a combined total of 216 points in the last two weeks since confirming their place in the section.
In D2, Ivanhoe and Yarra Valley have been relegated whilst Williamstown and Banyule battle it out for the chance to play Peninsula for promotion.
The Under 18 competition has been a great innovation for the Association.  We have been able to secure a representative match for our U18 players in New Zealand during October.  NZ is hosting their regional championships over a long weekend and we were invited to play against their National Under 20 team.  This is a self-funded tour and a marvellous opportunity for these young players.
Oakleigh and newcomers Preston Bullants have been the stand out teams with St Bernard’s certain finalists in our inaugural U18 comp.  UHS-VU combined with Flemington JFC to formulate a hybrid team that features many African lads.  The true spirit of VAFA football has been extended to these new teams, who have enjoyed the positive experiences of under age football in the VAFA.  It is anticipated that up to eight new teams may enter this competition in 2010.
All five under 19 sections conclude on the weekend. Old Camberwell (North 1), along with Old Melburnians Reserves are the only undefeated team remaining out of the 242. The other minor premiers will be De La Salle (Premier), Old Melburnians (South 1), Old Geelong Blacks (North 2) and either Ajax or Hampton Rovers in South 2. Of course, the minor premiership counts for little. That’s why we play finals and we look forward to many absorbing contests over the next month.
Follow all of our finals on vafa.com.au

15.08.09
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
The events surrounding last weekend’s St Kilda v Hawthorn match were intriguing and have some relevance to VAFA football.
Nearly every club person with whom I speak mentions the extraordinary number of injuries at the club and how each week is a struggle.  By nature, the VAFA has a transient population that travels, studies, holidays and gets injured.  However there are some solutions.
The systems set up by Ross Lyon and his coaching staff at Moorabbin are applicable regardless of the composition of the line-up.  It didn’t matter that Reiwoldt, Fisher, Del Santo and others were missing because their system ensures their replacements are able to work within the plan.
The successful teams in the VAFA are those that are coached by people who have systems in place that all players can follow, providing clubs with not just a few interchangeable parts but a whole box of them.
Lacking the time and resources of professional clubs, there are obvious difficulties for VAFA coaches in effectively imparting these methods to the playing group, not just to twenty-five senior players but to the forty or fifty who might be used throughout the season.  Attendance at pre-season is therefore critical to the coach and to a player’s season.  
VAFA people love to analyse and dissect every passage of play and argue for hours about the strengths and weaknesses of players and coaches.  We are a challenging group of people who enjoy the strategy of the match.  Long gone are the days when one or two recruits into a team would make the difference.  I believe the club’s most important recruit is its coach.
Getting commitment from Gen Y can be a huge challenge for the coaching staff, but no-one can resist involvement in an organisation when they can see that goals will be delivered.  They want to know that their commitment will be shared by more than just two or three players and also by a strong band of volunteers who will make sacrifices for something that is worthwhile.
Young people question and they want rational, intelligent answers that are credible.  They don’t want aimless drills that have little to do with the team structure.  Coaches only get the players for about four hours a week and these are the most critical in setting up the team and club for the year.
During the off season, a number of club presidents spoke with me about the difficulty of getting players to pre-season training.  Whilst pre-season is still about getting fit and improving skills, it is more importantly about getting the game-plan in shape.  Without the base of the pre-season, the implementation of the plan will never be quick enough to meet the demands of a season.
All players at the club must fully understand the way the senior team will play, as during the difficult weeks of the season, it might well be the performance of players from the U19 and reserves that dictates whether a club makes the finals, stays up or is relegated.  All players in all teams in a club must be fully conversant with the game-plan and adhere to it at training and in games. In this way, every player can feel satisfied that he is contributing to the success of the whole club.
St Kilda’s win in Launceston gave all its faithful a lot of pleasure because they are all involved. The VAFA coach should involve the whole club on his strategy by engaging all players, volunteers and supporters and the experience of being at a VAFA club will be that much more enjoyable – and successful.

8.8.09
PARTNERSHIPS FOR PROFIT
The clock is ticking and the end of the season will come sooner than many clubs had hoped. While weary club administrators will be looking for a break, and perhaps a little sand and sunshine, there will no doubt be some long hours spent post-season in planning for the future.
The VAFA is continually working to make our Association stronger. With nearly eleven thousand registered players and many thousands more who support our clubs or take an interest in their fortunes, our tentacles have great reach.
Happily, our generous sponsors have identified potential in this, the most recent of these being Lion Nathan, which has come on board with a plan that will greatly benefit community football, the VAFA and most importantly, our clubs.
Lion Nathan has been involved in the sponsorship of many major events, including the Melbourne Cup, but after extensive research, has switched its strategy to concentrate more on support of community sports. In Melbourne, there is no better vehicle than Australian Rules, and in our view, no better competition than the VAFA.
Dean Matthews, a 300 game veteran at Bulleen Templestowe, a VAFA rep player and now a Business Development Executive at Lion Nathan is working hard with our clubs to make them stronger by introducing them to the Boag’s range of beverages.
The days of companies forking out sponsorship dollars for no result are behind us. It’s now all about building relationships and providing sponsors an opportunity to benefit from our patronage. The VAFA endeavours to give our clubs those opportunities without applying compulsory compliances. However, the unified partnerships between sponsors, clubs and the VAFA can benefit us all.
Quite naturally, Lion Nathan will expect a return from its association with VAFA clubs, but the best part of the arrangement is that the greater the efforts of our clubs, the happier everyone will be in terms of reward.
The deal has potential to tip funds into club coffers 365 days a year, even when you are lying on that beach in January, reading a novel.  Some of our clubs have already sealed the deal with Boag’s and are hard at work with schemes to maximise their return from the deal. Quite frankly, this partnership could well be the most profitable that your club has ever had. It will take some effort, but it will be effort that is rewarded bountifully.
You should ask your club’s committee whether they are on board yet, because the longer they leave it, the more funds they’ll miss out on.
The VAFA is this week making available to clubs a short DVD extolling the virtues of companies getting involved in sponsorship of our Association and our clubs. Just as Lion Nathan has seen the benefit in backing us, it is to be hoped that many more major business organisations will support the VAFA and our clubs in the years ahead.
We’ll be doing our best to attract them and we hope all of our clubs can do the same.

1.8.09
HOT AUGUST FIGHT
It has been a hectic month in the VAFA and with finals fast approaching, it is an ideal time to run a quick ruler over our competition.  August is always the most intriguing month for amateur football, with almost every game possibly impacting on finals and relegation. This year’s home stretch promises some intriguing struggles in all sections. 
Where to start? Choose any Section and find a story or two to fascinate. In D3, with only one team going down and three coming up, the battle at the bottom is extremely tense. One match and only three percent separate the bottom five clubs. The first three teams have finalised their positions and the fourth is still up for grabs.  This is a Section where one week can mean a fight to avoid relegation and the next a moonshot for the four.
The three teams to be promoted from D4 will battle for those spots via a final five. The top team gets a bye in the first week, and Albert Park and La Trobe are in pitched battle for that prized minor premiership. Five teams are still chasing the other three finals’ spots.  The double chance beckons for the best of that quintet.
Some B section sides that appeared to in a relegation fight four weeks ago are now mounting a finals assault.  St Bernard’s, Old Melburnians and St Kevins are slugging it out for the top two spots and two of them play today. Old Trinity, Blacks and Haileybury hammer away for fourth spot. Ormond oscillate between relegation and finals and indeed need another couple of wins to ensure their survival in the Section. Old Carey seem to have their big guns all firing and could yet finish off the season in a flurry.
Rupertswood barnstormed the competition, going directly from Clubbies to C Section.  There they stalled, were relegated, but have this year re-grouped and are the only undefeated team in our twenty-three divisions. Werribee and Whitefriars are vying for second spot whilst Fitzroy, Old Mentonians and NOBSP are in a ding-dong tussle for the final slot.
Seasoned VAFA watchers agree that C Section is our most competitive. Caulfield have been brilliant this year under rookie coach Steve Lawrence and they are headed for Sandringham. Beaumaris, MHSOB, Mazenod, Oakleigh and a depleted AJAX all are fighting for the remaining places.
Peninsula seem safe atop the D2 ladder while Banyule and Williamstown contend for the second spot. The latter is trying to avoid looking over its shoulder to the threatening Old Westbourne, Therry Penola and Paradians.
Finally, it has been a watershed year in A Section. The top three – Old Xaverians, De La Salle and St Bede’s Mentone Tigers – all play a similar aggressive running brand of football and the next month will reveal plenty as they vie for the double chance.  The fourth seat has changed regularly and currently it’s Uni Blues in occupation. They face two of the top three in the next fortnight and should they beat at least one of these, should secure that position.
At the other end, it doesn’t look good for Old Ivanhoe or Old Essendon, but there may yet be bit of fight left in them.  The latter spent years trying to get into our premier division and is not going to go away easily. Both teams are tough to beat and shouldn’t be under-estimated.
All that said, we are less than a week away from Club XVIII finals. So it’s time for clubs to get busy securing double chances, finals’ spots, avoiding relegation and even planning for next year. It’s also time for the VAFA administration to get even busier to ensure that our competition, Melbourne’s finest and strongest community football league, even further enhances its excellent reputation.

25.7.09
THE JUNCTION IS A FORK IN THE ROAD
Last Sunday was a great day for VAFA football and at the same time a sad one, as it seems the curtain is drawing on football at the Junction Oval.
It is anticipated that Cricket Victoria will take over the lease of the ground and become a cricket venue 12 months a year, shutting out all Australian Rules matches. 
Obviously that will have an immediate effect on one of our clubs, Old Melburnians, who use the ground for matches during the winter.  The VAFA has used the ground for the early finals and it is a tragedy for our sport that this ground will be closed.
This ground should not be lost to football.  Our peak bodies, the AFL and AFL Victoria, should do everything in its power to lobby the State government and ensure its survival. 
The ground has played a unique part in the history of football, firstly as a home to the St Kilda FC for almost a century, then Fitzroy FC for fifteen years.  My memories of the ground include the sensational VFA finals in the 70s with names such as Frosty Miller, Buster Harland, Harold Martin and Sammy Kekovich.
The Junction was where Bernie Quinlan and Peter McKenna brought up their tons and Bulldog Murray won his Brownlow.  There is a special football feel about the ground and what a tragedy it would be if it closed to our great national game.
What could possibly possess our state government to allow Cricket Victoria access for twelve months a year, thus ending football’s run?
Why can’t football and cricket co-exist on this ground, like they do on so many other venues around Melbourne?  If Cricket Victoria needs a ground to itself, why shouldn’t it chase some reclaimed land or other open space to provide Melbourne with a new venue rather than taking one away?
How will Cricket Victoria utilise the Junction in between seasons? Given the conditions in the middle of the year, I don’t know of any fast bowler who would be interested in running through the mud to get to the crease. Perhaps someone will have to invent a game to keep our cricketers fit during those winter months!
Last Sunday approximately 2000 community football supporters flocked to the Junction (how long since cricket has attracted that many there?) to witness two matches, played on a high quality arena, and the games didn’t disappoint.  Whilst the VAFA went down after the siren for the second time in a row against the Country, we were winners in every other way.
Our disappointment in not winning either game should not cloud the reasons why representative football is played – to showcase our competition and most importantly to provide an opportunity to our players to play at a higher level.
Everyone at the ground last Sunday would have walked away knowing that the VAFA was a strong and vibrant competition that can hold its own with any other. I was certainly proud of all who contributed to the day from the coaching team, medical staff, officials, players and spectators.  Organising the day is akin to a grand final without the lead-up games.  They are major events and on Sunday we did everything right but get over the line.
This week our focus returns to the season’s run home.  Two matches left in the clubbies, five in the C – D4 and Unders and six in A and B Sections.  Every kick counts as the final battles for places in the four and to avoid relegation begin.
Accordingly our football department’s focus this week has been on identifying the best grounds for the finals and we are confident of bringing together another action packed finals series.

17.7.09
VAFA LEADERS
This year’s program of representative football culminates with our Seniors and Under 19s playing against the VCFL at the Junction Oval.  The senior match is being promoted as a Championship of Victoria battle after our win against the Eastern Football League earlier in the season.
VAFA representative matches were once a pathway to the AFL and may be again.  Most of the AFL recruiting assessments are complete by the end of the TAC Under 18 competition, with the physical attributes of the top chances identified.  However, athleticism and skill are not the only components that go to make an elite footballer. In today’s sport, integrity, intelligence and team spirit are also vital.
These are too often ignored by the recruiters, who it seems can see no further than assets that can be measured with a tape measure or a clock.  At our under age matches this year, these less definable qualities have been on display, but I wonder whether the scouts noticed?
Last week’s Age article by Martin Flanagan on Melbourne’s win against West Coast struck a chord with me. He described the type of character one needs to play league football.  One current AFL captain and another one of recent times came from the VAFA pathway.
Of James McDonald (former Old Xaverians premiership player), Flanagan said: There is an authenticity about the Melbourne captain that transcends fashion….he is brave like James Hird and Michael Voss were brave.  In build, he is slight but he is one of those players whose courage is absolute.
If I were writing a piece on Richie Vandenberg (former Uni Blues and VAFA Under 19 rep player), I would use similar analogies.
McDonald and his teammates, of course, were playing in some part for their leader Jimmy Stynes, whose own courage and unselfishness were learned in an amateur sports environment where the value of team is paramount. We hope these qualities continue to serve him well in his current fight.
Such qualities are found in many VAFA footballers and I am confident that in tomorrow’s matches we have some young men who fit this bill, men of substance who are relentless in their pursuit of the team game, who focus on the challenge of being part of a group that must work together to achieve something.
Whilst I have highlighted the benefits for AFL clubs of looking long and hard at VAFA players, there is also a big benefit for our own clubs in having one or more of their number wear the Big V.
Not only have they played in a match at a higher level that placed extra pressures on their decision-making, but they have had the opportunity to mix with the other leaders in our competition.
Players returning from Big V duty have a presence that helps create a healthier respect for opponents and ensures that our club games are played with better spirit.
Last week, they were opponents, and next week, they will be again. This week, however, they’ll be wearing the greatest footy jumper of all and playing together for the same cause.

11.7.09
JULY CAN BE TOUGH

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been to a number of VAFA games and spoken to many club representatives. It seems everyone has mentioned the same thing: “You wouldn’t believe how many people we have out this weekend.”
July is certainly the month for injuries, illness, school and university holidays and the snow.  This is the nature of VAFA footy and it occurs every year.
Some clubs seem to get down about this and think it a phenomenon that occurs only at their club. Not so. Every club is in the same boat and it’s those that don’t dwell on the injuries, but get on with the task of winning games that emerge stronger.  Wet and cold training nights are not as inviting and it doesn’t take much for numbers to slip away.  A re-commitment at this stage of the year can be pivotal in achieving a club’s goals.
The depleted numbers do cause issues in the reserves, Club XVIII and under age competitions.  Scraping the numbers together to fill a team can mean there aren’t enough officials to get through the day.  Now is not the time to let our standards slip. 
The integrity of our games cannot be compromised, so I urge clubs to get their injured players volunteering their time to assist these teams as a timekeeper, boundary or goal umpires.  A number of games have been commencing lately without the required officials and this does nothing for the image of the VAFA or the game itself.
Brian Goodman, Brad Lowe and the umpiring department have the same issues. The introduction of the Under 18’s this year has added more matches to an already busy schedule  Still, the umpiring department has had significant growth in the last 5 years.

  • 2004 – 103 Field Umpires for 120 appointments

  • 2005 – 129 Field Umpires for 120 appointments

  • 2006 – 135 Field Umpires for 118 appointments

  • 2007 – 137 Field Umpires for 118 appointments

  • 2008 – 144 Field Umpires for 120 appointments

  • 2009 – 143 Field Umpires for 128 appointments

Unfortunately, the Club XVIII competition has only 26 field umpires for 42 vacancies.
In the last two weeks, there have been thirty-eight, then thirty-seven umpires missing.  105 umpires are obviously not enough to fill 128 appointments, but incredibly; only one match had a single VAFA umpire.  Twenty-two umpires doubled up to save the day and we should be grateful to them.  They did a morning under-age game and followed up again that afternoon.  All seven umpires who officiated in the Sunday’s A Section match had appointments the previous day
The commitment of our umpires should not be under estimated.  Just last weekend a neighbouring metropolitan league’s umpires went on strike and all senior matches were cancelled.  Thankfully, we have a strong umpires association that works in partnership with the board and administration to ensure conditions and standards are maintained on and off the ground.
Yes, July can be a tough month for all involved.  Please be mindful of the stresses that are being placed on all stakeholders and if your club can get through the winter, the rewards in August and September will make it all worthwhile.

4.7.09
WORKING TOGETHER
Last week, members of the community leagues met with AFL Chief Executive, Andrew Demetriou, to discuss their place in Victorian football. 
The AFL has supported the AFL/VFL clubs in Victoria to the tune of $130 million for facilities.  While the AFL CEO stated “our biggest enemy is the other codes infiltrating into our venues,” community clubs can apply for AFL funding up to only ten percent of the project cost. This is not enough. 
The AFL recognises the need for improved facilities and on your behalf we will be lobbying them for greater allocations to improve club facilities and make the job of volunteers more pleasant.
The relationship between senior body and AFL Victoria appears to be improving.  The AFL filled two of the four AFL Vic board vacancies with its General Manager of Game Development, David Matthews and General Manager of Legal and Business Affairs, Andrew Dillon. Applications for the other two board positions closed last week and those appointments will be made by the end of the month.
With a new AFL Victoria Board and a stronger communication link to the AFL, the VAFA is in a good position to build our relationship with our peak bodies.
Many supporters of the Amateurs are disgruntled with the aspects of the AFL, but it is imperative that we work with them to ensure the continued prosperity of our game.  Denigrating the AFL and other metropolitan competitions does nothing to make our game better or make our own competition stronger.  The VAFA has much to offer, but other leagues provide opportunities that we don’t wish to compete with.
The volunteers and supporters of community football are the drivers of our game.  These are people who are watching the matches on TV, buying memberships of the clubs, bringing the kids to the matches and talking footy at home.  The AFL needs to work harder with competitions like ours to ensure the game’s continued prosperity.
There have been fewer better examples of the VAFA’s positive community atmosphere than at Waverley Park last Saturday.  The match between De La Salle and Old Xaverians lived up to all expectations.  It is always difficult to guess numbers at suburban grounds, but well over 2000 people streamed on to the field at the quarter and three quarter time breaks to listen to the words of the coach or to just catch up with friends.  A coach’s huddle is the perfect meeting place.
The game was as good as it gets.  Neither team gained real ascendency until the final term when Xavs appeared home, but then Leigh Harrison single-handedly dragged De La back into it with his incredible skills.  It was amateur footy at its best.
As a former coach, I can’t help but analyse the matches. The biggest change I have noticed this year is the brave running of our young players, who are literally running rings around some of the more slow legged players. It is a pleasure to watch.  None of this slowing down the tempo to steady the ship after unanswered goals, but more bravery, harder running and more risk-taking to get the next one. And it’s working a treat! If you want to hold a premiership cup aloft in September, the message is clear: Start running!.
Finally, on behalf of everyone in the VAFA family, heartiest congratulations to Peter Brabender of Old Paradians on his magnificent 400 game achievement.
26.6.09
HALF WAY
Round Nine – half way mark of the home and away season – and time for a mid-term reflection to reflect on events thus far. All teams have played each other, looked each other in the eye and will no doubt come again with a new battle plan if unsuccessful.
The first nine rounds are used to size up your opponent; the second nine are to land some telling punches when preparing for the knockout blows in September. No longer does that cheeky goal-sneak or the recruit from the country get under your guard. Every player is accounted for.
The Amateur footballer looks at each individual section in some detail, but overall, it is fair to say that 2009 is proving to be as competitive and enthralling as ever. One of the major strengths of the VAFA is the depth of our clubs in our lower sections. Last week, I watched the D2 game between Williamstown CYMS and Old Westbourne. The game was played in extremely windy and cold conditions, yet the standard of play was extremely high. With these clubs, and Werribee, we are building strength in the western suburbs and it surely won’t be long before a team or two from out that way is slugging it out in our premier divisions.
The most competitive of all the Sections is B. The top three teams, St Bernards, Old Melburnians and St Kevins, were all defeated on the weekend closing the gap between relegation and promotion. One week, you’re staving off relegation and the next, shooting for the four. There is no time for complacency in this grade.
It is always pleasing to see the clubs who went through the tough times one year, re-organising themselves and having a shot at the finals the following. Two clubs that have rebounded strongly are Rupertswood (D1) and La Trobe Uni (D4), our only undefeated senior sides. Others looking strong after a fall include Caulfield Grammarians in C, Whitefriars in D1, Bentleigh and St Mary’s/Salesian in D3 and La Trobe Uni in D4.
On the other hand, it seems the clubs promoted this year are having a tough time of it with the notable exceptions of Werribee (D1), Williamstown (D2) and St Francis Xavier (D3), all of whom appear headed for the finals, while incremental improvement from Ormond (B) and Eltham (D2) could see them still reach the four.
However the biggest improver thus far has been De La Salle. De La hasn’t played in an A Section finals since 1993 and has never really threatened to do so since returning to the main stage in 2006. Last season they finished eighth on the ladder, but have taken huge steps this season to better that. Eight wins, one loss and equal first on the ladder as we turn. De La would have an unblemished record but for a lapse when it surrendered a 7 goal lead.
I am pleased with the space the Age is giving the VAFA on Monday mornings and I was particularly delighted with the spread Paul Daffey did on De La a fortnight ago. The ways to build a powerful VAFA football club are varied, but there is plenty to like about the way De La has gone about its business.
Today’s top of the table clash against Xavs has been a long time coming, but this is just one of a number of challenges they will face in the second half of the season on the way to a shot at again claiming the coveted L. A. Adamson Cup.

20.6.09
RIVALRY ROUND
This weekend is VAFA Rivalry Round. With no AFL football on this Saturday afternoon, and no notable horseracing to keep you on the couch, it’s time to get to a VAFA game near you.
I am sure you are all keen on improving the numbers who get down to watch your club. This weekend (and for that matter, next weekend too), you should introduce or re-introduce a friend to the Ammos. Those who haven’t seen VAFA football recently will be pleasantly surprised by the high quality, intensity and competitiveness of the matches. This week, local rivalries will create that extra tension.
Some games that may be of interest to the wider VAFA community include: the second Umpires Appreciation Day being held at the Williamstown CYMS vs Old Westbourne game; the clash for the Stephen/Bedford Cup between South Melbourne and Fitzroy; and the battle for the Ken Criswick Cup, featuring Beaumaris and Caulfield Grammarians.
This week, the Board made two important decisions which will have an effect on our competition going forward. Firstly, it has been decided that next year, the D3 competition will have 12 teams and D4 only 10. Three teams will be promoted and only one team relegated.
Logically, the two most uneven sections are A and D4. This is because in A Section, the top two can’t be promoted; and in D4, the bottom two can’t be relegated. The battle to rise from our lowest Section should not be the most difficult. If the 12 teams were to continue in D4 with just two to be promoted, then the dream of progressing would remain a difficult proposition. The VAFA wants its clubs to aspire to higher levels.
During the off-season, a steering committee will be appointed to research the historical competitiveness of each Section, with a view to finding where the 12 team competition should fit.
The second move takes effect more immediately. From next week, Aquinas Under 19s will transfer from North 1 to North 2. The composition of teams in the Under 19s varies each year and trying to best place them is always a tough task for our General Manager of Football Operations, Jeremy Bourke.
One of the key values of the VAFA is to provide all players with a competitive and enjoyable game of football. Having a team consistently suffer major thrashings does not really provide the positive environment we seek for young men to enjoy their sport.
In making this move, we were fortunate that both the North 1 & 2 sections both had an uneven number of teams. The change means the elimination of the bye in both Sections, thus creating an opportunity for an extra 48 players to play each weekend. We thank the teams from both Sections who allowed this change to occur.
A review of the Under 19s will take place during the off-season and I would welcome all opinions regarding composition of the Sections.
I trust the crowds will be large this weekend and that many new fans will be introduced to the great family-friendly and fabulous competition that is the VAFA.

…………………………………………….

14.05.09
MORE TO IT THAN WINNING!
Last weekend saw 66 players represent the VAFA in three states. This huge manouevre could not have been successful without the outstanding support of a vast number of volunteers. Most of these are club people who, week in and week out, support their clubs and still give up their one free weekend to support our players.
While each of the games presented a scoreboard not to our liking, in every other way, the weekend can be measured as successful.
Rep football is a wonderful opportunity for players to get to know those they battle with each week. It broadens their perspective of our Association and in turn gives them a greater understanding of the VAFA and its role in the community.
This was clearly the case in the wonderful Under 23 match played at Fremantle Oval. Two of the players from each side had toured Ireland together last year and it was clearly evident that the friendships gained from this event spilt over to all players. In the after-match, all players socialised and then headed out together to celebrate.
Both teams were evenly matched, but WA had played two practice matches and had a dozen training and rehab sessions. This was evident as they were clearly the better team in the first half. Our lads displayed true spirit and had the better of the second half and whilst we had our chances the Sandgropers fully deserved their one point victory.
The Under 21 match against AFL Queensland was always going to be tough. Most of their players have been in elite squads, played Teal Cup and are endeavouring to get drafted. They see this match as their last chance. Generally they have been in these squads together for the last four or five years.
After a hectic but competitive first twenty minutes, it was AFLQ who slammed on four quick goals and that was enough to hold us at bay for the remainder of the day. We had our fair share of the ball, but in the end couldn’t convert.
It was a similar tale at Barooga where we were blown away in the first quarter. We had plenty of the ball in the second and third terms but didn’t have the fire power up forward. The VCFL kicked 4 goals in the last few minutes to make the scoreboard look poor. However the benefits for our C – D4 players travelling to the country, engaging in team meetings and playing in a game that is of a higher standard than a club game leave the players better for the whole experience and well-equipped for finals.
On July 19, we back up again for two matches against the VCFL at senior and U19 level. These matches will be played at the Junction Oval and we are anticipating close encounters. Since Dean Anderson has taken over as coach, he has had two wins and a loss, with all games being decided by a kick.
A huge thank you to our coaches, Mick Dwyer and Darren Handley (U23’s), Ben Robertson, Shane McLoughlin and Ben Magee (U21’s) and Mark Lowe and Paul Greenham (C – D4). They were supported by doctors, physios, trainers, team managers, timekeepers, runners and ambassadors. An example of their commitment was Dr George Janko who worked the Under 21 match, got on a plane and backed up with the Under 23’s in Perth the following day. Well done everyone.

30.5.09
REST UP OR REP FOOTY
Next weekend’s bye gives clubs an opportunity to take a breath and reflect on their season so far. Across all sections I am delighted with the competitiveness and last Saturday’s round of upsets enhanced this.
At the beginning of the season, Sportscover fund a $10,000 Pick the Premiers competition for our clubs. Each club gets two picks and this week I had a quick look through them. Most clubs selected teams that are currently not on the pace!
While the competition has a rest to recharge the batteries and give our officials and players some family time, the VAFA representative teams are playing matches in three different states.
VAFA representative football started in 1925 when the Big V was worn for the first time. The VFL used the jumper for their match and have done so ever since. That first match stood the VAFA apart from the rest of the competitions in Melbourne and so it does today as we our program is the envy of every other football competition not only in Melbourne but around the country.
The VAFA Board has well and truly backed the concept of representative football. We have questioned the expense at times, but believe it is well justified because of the great experience it is for our young men. Be mindful that it is not just for the best 22 players in the Association, but the best players from each subdivision who represent the total VAFA community. Next weekend we have three outstanding fixtures against quality opposition.
On Saturday, we have the Under 21s playing against AFL Queensland. This match has been played for three years and we have played an Under 19 side against this team and have been beaten on each occasion. This year, we have decided to play against this team on level footing to ensure our competitiveness. An AFLQ player has been drafted from each of these games so it really plays an integral part in the development of football in Queensland. That competition has seen more players drafted than either the WAFL or SANFL over the past 5 years.
On Sunday we have two matches, one in Perth where our Under 23s will take on the West Australian Amateurs, and the other in Barooga where the C – D4 take on the District competitions of the VCFL.
No doubt the toughest of these matches will be the C – D4 match against the country. Approximately 15 clubs will be represented in this match from teams across the sections. One could do a lot worse than a trip to the Murray River combining a game a golf, a trip to the wineries and watching your club star in a rep match against the country.
The trip to Perth for the Under 23s is a highlight in a footballer’s career. These are the junior stars of our competition and hopefully this is a team that our Under 19s and 21s are aspiring. These matches provide opportunities not available elsewhere in metropolitan and country leagues.
An All-Australian team will tour Ireland again at the end of next year and the touring party will be selected from the Under 23 matches over the next two seasons. From last year’s Ireland squad, we have seen Ben Dowd, Peter McGettigan and Brendan Iezzi become leaders at their clubs and also represent the Big V in their win against the EFL Bushfire match. Woodrow medallist Jack Watts will return to bolster the Blues line up later in the year whilst Andrew McGuinness is giving his dream of playing in the AFL one last shot at Box Hill.
Representative football is one reason why the VAFA is the best football competition in the land. Once a Vic, always a Vic. If you pull on our Big V just once, you’re a member for life, and the very best of luck to all those who will pull it on next weekend.
PS A Big V luncheon will be held at the RACV club on July 10 with special reunions of the 59, 69, 79, 89 and 99 teams.

23.5.09
WE ARE NOT ALONE
The CEO on recent events.
The events of the past week just go to show that it is not only the elite professional players that come under the media microscope but all football codes in general. Regardless of personal opinions on the seriousness of events that took place prior to the Club XVIII match on 1 May, the consequences should serve as warning to all players and administrators from sporting clubs in all levels.
What disappointed me most of all about the incident was its timing and location. To choose Elsternwick Park, VAFA headquarters, before a match played for premiership points is totally disrespectful to opponents, the competition and the Association.
Whilst there may be many who find the events amusing, it strikes me as an immature and unsavoury display of machismo that belongs to a bygone era.
The VAFA has an impeccable name in the community, built by clubs, individuals and the Association over 115 years. I believe that if this incident had occurred in another metropolitan competition, the media could have been far more aggressive. However, no matter the positives of our Association, our name has been tainted by these events.
Whilst in speaking to the media about these events we endeavoured to stress our family friendly culture, our alcohol-free policy and our history of good crowd behaviour, their focus was on the actions and the penalties.
So it was disappointing indeed that the Herald Sun, who viewed the episode as worthy of a Monday morning front page, got its facts wrong on those penalties when reporting the investigation findings on Tuesday.
While in the VAFA media release it clearly states that “The Prahran Amateur Football Club is fined $5000, of which $1000 is payable within 7 days and the balance suspended until the conclusion of season 2010, conditional on the good behaviour of the club,” Brendan Roberts reported that The VAFA fined the club $5000 . . . with a further $4000 fine suspended until the end of the 2010 season.
Radio stations took the Herald Sun story at face value and subsequent discussion featured criticism of the severity of our penalty. It goes to show that no matter how diligent one can be in distributing information, the media, intentionally or not, sometimes does not pay the same attention to detail.
This story broke a week after the game on breakfast radio and it was then that we first acted to find out what had happened. A week later, a concocted paragraph that bore little resemblance to the facts appeared in the Herald Sun. I can only presume that because of the Matthew Johns affair, it suddenly became a big story for Australia’s largest distribution daily. Not only in Melbourne but it was a lead item on Sky News in England.
All sporting clubs are now on notice. With digital cameras and high resolution phone cams, anonymity can be difficult. When in the company of teammates in any social situation, we are, rightly or wrongly, representing our club and individual behaviour will be attributed to a wider group.
Prahran, as a club, did not organise these shenanigans, but because they were set up by an individual associated with their club, took place at VAFA headquarters in the Prahran rooms in front of a Prahran team, means that the club must wear the burden of the penalty. That they accepted same without argument is a positive, but their next challenge is to ensure that they prevent further infringement, which could spell the end of the line of a proud old club in our Association. None of us wants that.

16.5.09
Volunteers – Lifeblood of the VAFA
The CEO salutes volunteerism.

As we come to the end of National Volunteers Week (NVW), it is appropriate time that we recognise all of the men and women who give of their time to ensure that the VAFA’s 120 weekly matches are played.
NVW is the largest celebration of volunteers and volunteerism in Australia, and provides an opportunity to highlight the role of volunteers in our communities and to say thank you to the more than 5 million Australians.
Volunteers make an extraordinary contribution to Australian society. If you are a player or a supporter, then this week could provide you the motivation to consider how you can contribute more to your club. Each club handles their volunteer appointments differently, but there are an extraordinary number of tasks that are performed by your football club and everybody could find a role.
At the new Presidents information evening held last month, it emerged that one of the biggest issues facing clubs was getting the support of their community to fill all these roles. AFL Victoria has published a job description for each of the volunteers required at any club – all 38 of them, from sponsorship manager, trainer, team manager to football director.
The value to the VAFA of volunteering is immense and irreplaceable. One of the best ways to demonstrate the importance of volunteering to the Australian community is to ensure volunteers’ contributions are recognised, valued and accounted for.
The theme for this year’s NVW is Volunteers: Everyday people, extraordinary contribution. This theme carries the message that everyone has something of value to offer and that every volunteer’s contribution, no matter how big or small, is extraordinary because that person cares enough to give their time for no financial reward.
I believe volunteering in the VAFA is so much more rewarding, as all club people are doing it for the same reason – for the love of the game and for the benefit of players and supporters and families who also love their club. In the VAFA, our commitment is deeper than financial, it is about personal growth.
At the VAFA headquarters we too require an enormous number of volunteers.
We have 15 volunteer Board members who not only attend the monthly Board meetings but sit on various sub-committees and attend matches every weekend.
We have over 30 members of the tribunal and investigation panel, 15 weekly contributors to the Amateur Footballer, 4 administrators who pour over the weekly teamsheets and paperwork, Nancy McTaggart compiling all the scores on a Saturday afternoon and Liz Wilson assisting with administration on Fridays.
For representative football, we have 5 senior coaches who enlist approximately 30 assistants and runners and another 15 medical staff and trainers. If these people required payment then our whole representative program would be shelved.
Volunteering is critical to the survival of sport in Australia. Sign up today – volunteer with your club. Think about it!

9.5.09
WOMEN FOR ALL SEASONS
The CEO would like to see more women more deeply involved.

As we celebrate Mothers’ Day tomorrow, it is appropriate that we take time out to recognise the outstanding job that women play in VAFA football. For the most part, our clubs provide an environment where women are respected and welcomed.
Yet, in a sport that has been traditionally dominated by men, the opportunities for women to attain positions of strategic significance have been few. Much has been mentioned of Davina Connors-Calhaem, first female Board Member and former A Section Premiership President, but there have been relatively few who have followed in her footsteps.
We have 73 member clubs, including the VAFUA, and of the 292 Executive positions (president, secretary, treasurer or member) only 19 are held by women. Only 6 per cent of clubs’ senior positions are filled by women, which is not nearly enough. Fourteen club secretaries, four treasurers and only one president. Well done to the courageous Janine Bingham from Chadstone AFC, who is our sole woman President.
There are numerous ladies luncheons being held around our seven sections today. Many women around amateur football display great support for husbands, partners and friends. However, we would be a richer competition still if many of these women chose to play leading rather than supporting roles.
A woman’s point of view and some female intuition can bring new ideas to a club committee. Every club needs both long and short-term planning and the opinions and ideas of women can be invaluable to these strategies and the achievement of club goals.
Our umpiring stocks are similarly bereft of women. What a sensation Leah Gallagher has been – a field umpire for over 400 senior matches, current scribe and on the VAFAUA Executive – well respected by the players, coaches and supporters alike. She has been a terrific role model for our umpires, but unfortunately it has been extremely difficult getting young female umpires to follow her lead.
This year however, we have two new female field umpires. Both of these young ladies have been boundary umpiring with the VAFA on a Saturday and field umpiring in the MSJFL on a Sunday. This year, 17 year old Alex Anthony and 18 year old Jade Daly have progressed to field umpiring in our under-age competitions.
The lack of female umpires in not confined to the VAFA. The only female goal umpire in the AFL, Chelsea Roffey, is not going to be joined by a woman from the VAFA ranks as we currently don’t have one. Getting paid to wave the flags in the VAFA is an ideal way for any young person to supplement income during school or university years. And who knows – they might even enjoy it.
The VAFA prides itself on providing an environment that is friendly for everybody. There is no better time for clubs to welcome women into their inner sanctum, to encourage and allow them to bring their insights to positions where they can have a positive long term effect on their football club. Hopefully to positions that is more than just engaging the rest of the women at their club or coordinating an event. A position that involves strategy.
On behalf of all the members of the VAFA community, I would like to extend to all the mothers of the players, coaches, volunteers and supporters a very special day tomorrow. Hopefully it is a day- off from completing those arduous football mums’ duties.

1.5.09
A DAY TO REMEMBER
The CEO reflects on last weekend’s commemoration.

At all VAFA matches, one minute’s silence was observed to pay our respects to those who had lost their lives for us in war. These ceremonies varied greatly across the sections, but regardless of their detail they all carried the same symbolic reflections.
Playing football on Anzac Day celebrates the deeds of our ancestors who fought so bravely for our freedom. And no greater freedom than to play the game we love for the sheer enjoyment of the contest.
VAFA media correspondent Max McGraw wrote in his Monday website piece that he had taken issue with the comment from an AFL coach that his team had let down the ANZACS. Most VAFA followers would probably agree with McGraw on this and what it really means to play Australian football on Anzac Day.
I received an email on Monday outlining one such game that was played in our newly formed Under 18 competition. Prior to the game, the field umpire approached the coaches and asked if he could speak to the players. The umpire, a Vietnam veteran who after 34 years had decided to acknowledge his own part in the war, enlightened the players on what Anzac Day meant to him.
He addressed the players and officials in a most honest and heartfelt manner.
The letter to me stated: “The umpire’s own momentous decision to embrace Anzac Day and address his own troubles had a wonderful impact on our football team. Last Saturday was one of those special days for me in community football. It was a day where his conquests and struggles as a war veteran transcended both the game and the generations involved, as well as made an enormous contribution to the relationships between players and umpires.”
At the end of the game, the umpire awarded his own Anzac Day medal to the best player of each team. It was a wonderful gesture and a very poignant moment.
Sport can provide people with a sense of belonging and promotes mateship. What better day than Anzac Day to celebrate this Australian trait?
Last Saturday was a special day in a footballer’s career. Anzac Day will not fall on a Saturday for another decade and for many, the chance to play an Anzac game will not come again. Hopefully then, the day held some special significance for all of you.