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We travel the state, raise eyebrows at rookie talent but otherwise garner little satisfaction from games where the scoreboard doesn’t matter.
Yesterday, however, on the back of the bushfires that so cruelly and comprehensively ripped and ruined land holdings and lives, real football arrived early.
The scene was Jubilee Park, Ringwood, an expanse both greater and greener than VAFA’s moribund homefield, and with good weather and fine cause, the fans flocked east to see a real contest between the Victorian Amateurs and the Eastern Football League.
The sausages were sizzling, the can bars in full operation, the umbrellas were up and the fillies looked good.  The crowd and the oddsmakers both strongly favoured the Easterners.
Players cannot resist the lure of the Big V, the grandest uniform of all, and plenty put up their hand to play. Even the clubs, who can be often understandably tetchy about representative football, showed full support. Well, most of them did.
The pipers played the anthem as the teams eyeballed each other across the divide. To these eyes, the Ammos looked bigger, though admittedly coach Dean Anderson, lieutenants Mick Dwyer and John Kanis, and chairman of selectors Michael Blood had gone with a very tall lineup.
The Easterners looked impressive from the first bounce, moving the ball with method and drawing first blood. Then the good guys got on the board courtesy of Matt Robbins after never-say-die skipper Tim Fleming had made a desperate lunge to spoil and keep the cherry in the forward fifty.
 Further goals to Andrew Lowcock, Brett Sinclair and Robbins (again) saw the Amateurs ahead at the first change.
With Haydn Heta and Luke Wintle smashing their opponents at the stoppages, the Ammos were dominating around the packs. Only some ill-considered short passing while going up the slope in the second quarter kept the EFL in the game. Andy Cultrera struck early and Robbins got one late in an otherwise fruitless second stanza.
In the third period, the EFL made its charge. They showed their class with four goals and it might have been more but for some strong defensive work from Andy Bowen, who blanketed former Trinity spearhead Matt Greig, and the tireless pair of Tom Simpson and Brendan Iezzi. Goals from Ben Phibbs and Robbins kept the door ajar.
Coach Anderson delivered a positive message at the three-quarter time huddle, imploring his charges to go long and direct. They’d run long and hard over the huge ground for three quarters, but he insisted there was more to give. While not resorting to “we few, we happy few,” the coach tugged at their pride and emotions, reminding them of why they play the game.
The final stanza was completely dominated by the VAFA team, with every player emptying their tank. Charlie Gardiner, Chris Blumfield and Brett Voss all goaled before the EFL regained the lead. Phibbs kicked another, then the home team struck back to level the scores at the twenty-minute mark. There were tense moments and much clock-watching until mighty Matt Robbins again marked and slotted home his fifth to put the Ammos up by a goal.
The final contest took place directly in front of the nail-biting VAFA box. Then the siren, the sound of which was drowned by the stunned silence of the EFL crowd.
The VAFA should take great satisfaction from the victory. The Ammos is clearly the strongest competition in Melbourne and now we know that which we have long suspected: that the VAFA’s best are as good as anyone else’s.
VAFA clubs and especially their hard-working committeeman, whose efforts have been oft threatened and sometimes thwarted by the cheque book, will no doubt be delighted with the showing, and especially the result.
However, the real glory belongs to the players who worked so hard to pull off a memorable victory. Everybody’s All-Australian Ben Dowd won the medal for best afield and deservedly so. He plays football with unabashed joy and skill, the way Harrison and Wills intended and feasted voraciously on the work of the big men.
Today, the players go back to their clubs. Friends become foes and normal transmission is resumed. If yesterday’s appetiser is any guide, the VAFA season ahead promises much. Only nineteen more sleeps to go.
The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the VAFA. Max McGraw can be contacted at [email protected] .