EDITORIAL: THE VAFA CUP

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– Michael Sholly

At the recent Members Meeting I floated the idea of the VAFA hosting two FA Cup style knockout competitions with one contested between our Division clubs and the other by our Premier clubs.  The VAFA has the opportunity of initiating a pre and early season competition with finals contested under lights at Sportscover Arena during May that will enhance our Association and add another point of difference. 
With the promotion and relegation system, local derbies and rivalry can be difficult to orchestrate in the VAFA. Attending games where there is the rivalry are great events for the clubs and players. However it is rare for clubs to remain in the same section for any period of time to allow a rivalry to flourish. What a great evening of football and entertainment it would be to have an evening match in daylight saving played between two local rivals, regardless of their section, as a warm up to the start of the season?
The FA Cup in England has all teams striving to win one cup. However in soccer the possibility for a lower ranked team to ‘park the bus’, pinch a goal and live the dream of beating one of the Premier League teams is a reality. With higher scores in Australian Rules this doesn’t seem as likely and there certainly isn’t the financial boon of hosting Manchester United at your Division 5 club. Therefore the proposal put forward was to play two cups split between our Division and Premier clubs.
The intention would be to play early round matches in March to get the competition down to a manageable level when the season proper commences. By the time round 1 of the season commences, we would have only 8 (Premier) or 16 (Division) clubs remaining. Much like soccer, the VAFA Cup matches would be played on a Tuesday and Wednesday night at Sportscover Arena. The Division and Premier Cup Finals would then be played under lights on the Wednesday and Thursday night before the bye for Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
I am sure clubs in Premier C would jump at the opportunity to host a Premier club and have a big event at their ground. Similarly, a Division 4 club hosting a Division 1 club could become their biggest game of the year and a great fundraiser. With daylight saving, matches could easily be played until 8.30pm in March without the use of lights. We understand there will be difficulties with grounds but clubs face this every year when they organise practice matches. 
Pre-season training can become long and drawn out for both players and coaches alike and having the motivation of playing ‘live’ matches during the March period will assist everyone. Clubs could use this in various ways: test out last years under age players at senior level, get a recruit signed up early or use it as a fundraiser on a warmer night. Whatever the motivation these games could become a real highlight for the year.
The night matches played earlier this year were a great success and the feedback has been that the players enjoyed playing under lights. The playing of matches at night after a Saturday game would only occur once for 16 teams and twice for 8. I wouldn’t have thought this was a major issue for clubs. However if it was, then remember it is only one team playing and there would be plenty of eager reserves or under age players who would put their hand up to play in the senior cup team.
The VAFA is a unique competition with a vast array of clubs who all have differing reasons of existence. We play for the love of the game, we are spread all over Metropolitan Melbourne and we have a proud history of representative football. Having an FA Cup style of competition may be something that further distinguishes us from any other league in the State.