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A season to remember
Thank you for purchasing the first ever full colour A4 commemorative Grand Final edition of the Amateur Footballer.  Each week this program provides detailed information and we thought it was time to up the ante and provide 40 colour pages that might one day become a collector’s item. 
A fantastic VAFA season will culminate this weekend with the three Premier Sections and Division 3 Grand Finals.  All promotion and relegations have been decided and some thrilling Grand Finals have been played and won.
Congratulations to the following clubs on winning promotion: University Blacks and Beaumaris (Premier), Parkdale Vultures and Fitzroy (Premier B), North Old Boys / St Pats and Peninsula (Premier C), Bulleen Templestowe and Prahran Assumption (Division 1), Ivanhoe and Yarra Valley (Division 2) and Sth Mornington and Swinburne University (Division 3).  Of the twelve promoted clubs, five of these will be playing in their highest VAFA section with Beaumaris being the first solely district club to play in Premier since Ormond in 1996. It is a huge year for Beaumaris who are also celebrating their 50th year as a club.
Collegians and Old Xaverians have held the top 2 positions on the ladder for the majority of the season and are deserved Grand Finalists.  The Old Xavs record since 1995 is incredible winning 11 premierships and being runners up twice.  Collegians are defending their title of 2011 and are playing in their fourth grand final in the past five seasons.  This is their second ever grand final meeting between Collegians and Old Xaverians, the first encounter was in 2010 when Old Xaverians triumphed by 20 points.  It all points to a great finale to the season.
Seven senior sections with reserves, an expanding thirds and a vibrant Club XVIII competition gives all senior players an opportunity to play amateur football commensurate with their level of skill or time commitments.  Add to this the five Under 19 sections and an Under 18 competition and all needs are met by the VAFA.  Over 12,000 registered players feast on the opportunities provided both on and off the ground.
Along with providing our players with 125 matches each weekend our elite players are rewarded with representing the association when donning the Big V.  Our seniors had two outstanding victories against the Eastern Football league and AFL Sydney in 2012.  This, along with our victory against the VCFL in 2011, confirms the VAFA as the premier community football competition in the country. 
Our Under 23’s were successful in defeating Western Australia in the AAFC match. Premier C – Division 4 and Under 19’s were unfortunately defeated by the EFL and VCFL respectively.  Our Under 18’s head to Wellington in two weeks to play the New Zealand Under 20’s and we wish Tom Maule (2011 Junior Coach of the Year) good luck as they endeavour to bring home the Trans Tasman trophy. 
On the back of his outstanding AAFC carnival in 2011, Sam Dunell was drafted as a rookie listed player and was promoted to the senior list to debut for St Kilda against Sydney.  He joined 2010 Club Warehouse Rising Star Dan Nicholson as our most recent players to be drafted to the AFL.  
The coaches and commitment from the support staff in representative football speaks volumes for our competition.  To have all of these people give of their busy time so generously should be recognised by all.  Simon Lethlean, Dean Matthews, Ben Robertson and Owen Lalor were outstanding ambassadors for the VAFA.  It was a huge effort and one which we should all be proud.
The captain of our senior Victorian team against the EFL, Cam Howat won the Woodrow Medal for best and fairest player in the Premier Section. He was a deserving winner as he has been an outstanding contributor to the VAFA since returning to Old Carey from Richmond in 2009.  Congratulations to all other best and fairest winners for the season.
In 2012 the VAFA formed partnerships with VFL stand alone clubs Collingwood and Essendon to provide players for their teams as these sides do not have reserve teams in the VFL.  This pathway program was put in place to provide opportunities for our players to potentially make the next step into an AFL career.  Matt Boland (Parkdale Vultures), Jack Hellier and Dan Garside (St Bedes Mentone Tigers) and Tom Humphrey (De La Salle) were the first recipients of places in this program.
There have been many highlights during the year for both club and individuals. Chadstone’s first win in four years; the hundred goals by Ash Close of Ivanhoe, including a patch of 55 in 6 games and also a dozen so far in finals; Parkdale Vultures and Prahran Assumption’s double jump; Adem Yze kicking five goals in the last quarter to snatch victory against the luckless Old Trinity; and the 282 Premier matches on Dartfish. Final highlights include the Collegians after the siren goal in the U19 Section 3 Grand Final; 19 second half goals to Yarra Valley in the Div 3 Preliminary Final; the drawn final and extra time between Old Geelong and Whitefriars; the Old Xavs Crocodiles winning their 17th flag since the VAFA took over the clubbies in 1986; and Karey Taylor from Old Geelong U19’s kicking 5 second quarter goals in their win against Williamstown.
Administratively the VAFA were the first to bring in new initiatives such as live scores and electronic reporting for umpires. Whilst these may have experienced some hiccups throughout the year we were daring enough to pioneer these.  Next year I am confident they will be even more user friendly.
In 2012 we saw the introduction of a weekly VAFA TV show as Andrew Leonard went out to a different club every Thursday night to try to share the experience of that club with the rest of the competition. VAFA TV also unearthed the VAFA TV Strongman competition and congratulations must go to Stefan Davis of Mazenod for his 160kg lift in the final. 
We should all be proud of umpires who are well led by Brian Goodman and coach Tony Hales. Right through the sections the standards set are very high and from my view they don’t seem to over officiate the games.  It will be a tough job picking the best three for the Premier Grand Final as there is an ever widening number to choose from.
Let’s sit back now and enjoy a great weekend of amateur football. Eleven premierships still up for grabs in what will be a fitting finale to a wonderful season.

Promotion and Premierships
Contrasting conditions greeted the players on the weekend.  Saturday was cold and windy with cross breezes at the north-south venues used in the VAFA finals. But Sunday was a calm, sunny afternoon allowing players to display their skills in front of large crowds.
Congratulations to Uni Blacks, Parkdale Vultures, Peninsula, Prahran Assumption, Ivanhoe and Swinburne University who have gained promotion to Premier, Premier B and  C and Division 1, 2 and 3 respectively.
Peninsula entered the VAFA in 1980 in the old F Grade and has generally oscillated between Division 1 and 2.  The win on Saturday got them into Premier C for the first time. They have played in 6 grand finals and, whilst they have gained promotion, have never raised the premiership cup.  Their match against NOB / St Pats promises to be a close encounter after a slender two points separated them in the second semi and each had one win apiece in the home and away season. 
Parkdale Vultures has shown a resurgence since Sam Radford has taken over the reigns as coach.  Brilliant winners in Division 2 last year and convincing winners of last Saturday’s second semi, they have made the double jump and will compete in Premier B for the first time.  Prahran Assumption has similarly completed a double promotion after being unbeaten last year. Two successful amalgamations.
Premier Section welcomes back University Blacks after a brief appearance in 2008. From all reports they are much stronger than their previous venture and will be looking to make a huge impact next season. However we know the jump to the highest section is the biggest hurdle and in my opinion the standard and depth of clubs in Premier will be at an all time high.  Expect continued improvement from Carey and St Bedes Mentone Tigers, St Bernard’s and Uni Blues will not be satisfied with their positions on the ladder from this year.
On Saturday at Sportscover Arena Beaumaris and St Kevin’s will compete for the right join the Blacks in Premier Section.  St Kevin’s haven’t won a final since 2004 and Beaumaris have never played in a Premier B preliminary Final since they entered the VAFA in 1995.  If successful they will be the first stand alone district club to play in Premier since Ormond were relegated in 1996.
Collegians proved they are the team to beat in Premier with a come from behind victory against Old Xaverians.  After an initial burst of four goals by Xavs, Collegians outplayed their opponents to eventually run out 38 point victors. Eleven goals to three after half time is evidence of their superiority.
De La always held the upper hand against Old Scotch and eventually ran out 20 point winners to gain the right to play Old Xaverians in the Preliminary Final.  These two sides have played some tense matches in front of huge crowds in recent years.  Whilst the form guide may read better for De La, the side coming off the second semi loss tends to have the better record.  We will wait and see on Sunday.
The two final promotion matches are in Premier C between Fitzroy and Mazenod and Division 3 between Yarra Valley and UHS-VU. Fitzroy made remarkable progress about 5 years ago and if successful will progress to Premier B for the first time. The loss to Ivanhoe was only Yarra Valley’s second for the year and they will go in as strong favourites to return to Division 2.
There are some clubs with real momentum and others reaching their highest sections.  Two sides being promoted and relegated really allows clubs who have this impetus to progress through the sections quickly with their current crop of players.  However those players cannot shoulder the responsibility forever and new players need to be added to ensure a club survives in the upper echelons of the VAFA.  

The weather gods smiled on us as the divisions and under age sections took to the fields in the first weekend of finals. Already we have had three teams promoted and a draw which resulted in overtime and a pulsating two point victory to Old Geelong.
Sportscover Arena hosted the two closest games of Week 1 of the finals series. The second semi final in Division 1 saw North Old Boys/St Pats win by just 2 points over Peninsula and are now re-entering Premier C. North Old Boys combined with St Patricks, Ballarat in 2006 and were relegated to Division 1 in 2007.  Mergers can take a period of time for integration to occur and with this year’s president hailing from the St Pat’s half they are reaping the rewards and a whole new opportunity awaits for this club.
Our new extra time rules were put into place for the in the first semi final in Division one between Old Geelong and Whitefriars. At the end of normal time the teams were locked at 11.10.76 each of two. Both clubs went into a huddle and the captains summoned into the centre for the coin toss to select ends.  Previously it was a straight swap of ends but this rule was changed last year.  Two five minute halves of time on were played out and Old Geelong celebrated with a 2 point victory.  For the record if the scores were level after the second half the timekeepers are instructed not to blow the siren until the next score. 
Congratulations also to Bulleen Templestowe and South Mornington who have gained promotion to Divisions 1 and 3 respectively. Bulleen Templestowe, a former A Section club, responded in the best possible way after being relegated last year.  South Mornington entered the VAFA in 2007 and this is their first promotion after building a base following their success in securing the reserves premiership in 2011.
Two sides have the opportunity to go through the sections in consecutive years – Parkdale Vultures and Prahran Assumption. They are endeavouring to win through to Premier C and Division 1 respectively after winning premierships in 2011.  What is interesting to note is that both of these clubs are merged clubs similar to NOBS/St Pats in Division 1.  In 2004, Parkdale Vultures commenced as a merge between Mentone Amateurs and Parkdale from the Southern Football League.  
This is the second year of the successful Prahran and Assumption College amalgamation.  This is on the back of the outstanding success St Bedes/ Mentone Tigers had winning three consecutive flags in Premier C, B then A from 2006 – 08. The success of these clubs must have other clubs pondering such a move.
The Premier Sections enter the finals this week and we have six blockbuster semis played at Sportscover Arena, Box Hill City Oval and Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham.  With the AFL making the strategic move of placing their finals at night so as not to take on the VAFA’s finals head to head, all focus will be on VAFA matches during the day. Make sure you keep abreast of all the action on your Live Scores app. Go to vafa.com.au for details on how to connect.
For the second year we had the vote count completed live on 96.5 INR FM last Tuesday and Wednesday.  In 2009, after a successful senior career at Richmond, Cam Howat returned to his schoolboy team Old Carey. In his four years in the VAFA,  he has been a part of Old Carey’s 2010 Premier B premiership, toured Ireland in 2011, this year captained the senior Big V and on Wednesday was announced the winner of the Woodrow Medal as the Best and Fairest in the Premier Section.  Congratulations to all the winners with a full list in the For the Love of the Game section of the Amateur Footballer.


In my travel around Melbourne last weekend I took in a Division 4 reserves game.  I stayed to see the first quarter of the seniors match and a group of young reserves players came over to a car next to me to watch the game.  A conversation started with the driver who was a parent and former player at the club.  He stated that he watched his club play every week and loved it.  “I love the rawness of the matches,” he said, as two players collided in a bump that saw them sprawling on the ground.
At the VAFA Umpires Association Awards night at the MCC Dining Room on Monday, guest speaker Luke Ball said he stood with his school buddy Jobe Watson watching the Club XVIII grand final the previous day at Sportscover Arena and he used the same phrase, “I enjoyed the rawness of the game.”  His next sentence was a bit more frightening to other Premier Section clubs in that he would love to join Jobe and his cousin from Sydney, Josh Kennedy and finish off their careers together playing for the Old Xaverians. 
I am an avid watcher of all sport but at the moment Australian Rules, and all professional sport for that matter, has lost that rawness. I sense the public is tired of the fact there seem to be more dramas off the field than there are on it.  The major issues filling our newspapers are Lance Armstrong’s USADA doping allegations, Travis Cloke’s contract, Brett Ratten’s coaching position, tennis players potentially boycotting the Australian Open and the horse race fixing inquiry involving senior jockeys.  
Over the next four weeks you won’t get any better example of sport in its purest form than watching the 100 VAFA teams embark on a premiership campaign.  There will not be any discussions of what price you can get if Parkdale Vultures go from Division 2 to Premier C in consecutive years, whether Cam Howat had a drink with his mates at the Barkly on Sunday night or even whether Old Trinity tanked against Uni Blues two weeks back so they could be relegated.  There will be no talk from the clubs who missed out on finals action on how they need to find another $50,000 so they can compete. What a relief that our competition doesn’t rely on any outside influences.
I know that the readers of my editorials are already converted to amateur football but at this time of the year on the eve of finals we should celebrate the great game of amateur football.  There are no benefits, no better facilities or coaching panels that differentiate the teams, no salary cap but just twenty-two team-mates who have found their level, be it Premier or Division 4 reserves, trying to achieve something together.
The VAFA relies heavily on the gate receipts for finals but we do endeavour to offer reduced finals for those who watch multiple games. This year for $40 you can purchase a go anywhere finals series ticket that allows entry into all eight days of action across multiple grounds over the four week feast of finals footy.  Five dollars a day is huge value for the amount of entertainment provided. 

This weekend sees the final round in all our division and under age sections and of course the much anticipated Grand Finals in the two Club XVIII competitions. Each week the competitions will be losing teams who can celebrate or commiserate on the conclusion of another season. On Sunday night over 100 teams will have begun preparations for 2013.  The following weekend another 60 teams will join them.
When a year ends there is much time to reflect and at this time many players will be considering their options for next year. For many, their bodies will be sore and pleading for a rest and the dreaded R word will be entering their minds. Retirement for many is considered to be the end of their journey at a club and a time to move on.
This should not be the case.  Retirement provides you with many options of still being involved at club level.  Most people’s motivation to join a club is to play football; however the thing that one misses most when not playing is the camaraderie and pleasure of being around your mates.  You might be about to retire from the playing arena but there is no need to retire from your club or the VAFA.
I have not yet met a club that has too many volunteers.  Volunteers are valuable assets at a club, with the contributions and varied skill sets worth their weight in gold.  Not all who retire reached heights of best player at the club but all of you were a component that made your club great.  This can be continued and enhanced in retirement from playing.
If you speak to the volunteers at your club, whilst I am sure they would all like to be out there playing, contributing off the field is a labour of love.  Getting a match day role or helping out at the club on a Thursday night can be a fulfilling experience.  The jobs can be varied.
For those fit enough, being the club umpire can be a great way of keeping a close alignment to your club and doing an essential job that gives great satisfaction. If you are even more serious about umpiring then you should consider giving Brian Goodman a ring to join the VAFA umpires.  They train every Tuesday and Thursday, you get allocated a game close to home, pick up some tax free money on the side and stay close to the game you love.
Coaching is another area that needs support, particularly in our junior sections.  For some reason often the best player is not always the best coach and a recent retiree is often respected greatly at U18 or U19 level. Having an understanding of your club’s culture, along with empathy for young adults are the key ingredients to be a junior coach.  It is not the person who has the best footy knowledge that makes the best junior coach but someone who understands the players you are coaching more.
It is up to the club officials to start planning for next year now.  Recruitment of players is up to the football department.  Recruitment of the volunteers is just as integral to club operations. A whole host of volunteers are needed for every club – a list of thirty-six job descriptions is on our website under Info for Clubs. 
It has been a great season for the VAFA, who as an organisation has relied so heavily on our volunteers.  All our rep coaches and medical staff, the board and ambassadors, the scorers and timekeepers have all given their time and hopefully they have all been repaid by the knowledge that they have helped 10,000 players once again play in the VAFA.
Keep close to the VAFA in the next few weeks by coming along and supporting your mates as they strive for premiership glory.  There are twenty-five flags up for grabs commencing on Sunday and continuing for the next month – a feast of finals football.

Football the winner
What a great weekend of amateur football we just witnessed with the undoubted highlight being the first win of Chadstone since Round 17 2008 when they played under the moniker of Syndal Tally Ho. Sixty-nine matches, 1828 days without a win would test any clubs patience but if you had been following the clubs progress this year there were signs they were closing in on a win. The vibes would have been positive going into the game as their last win was also against Mt Lilydale.
The VAFA community has got behind Chadstone’s win with our twitter and Facebook sites reaching record numbers of ‘Likes’ and ‘retweets’ of the news.  Instantly the club and coach Dave Cafarella achieved celebrity status as he he gave media interviews for most of the week. Starting on Sunday morning with Tom Brain’s Ammo hour on Southern FM. Chadstone earlier this season were entered in the Wild Turkey promotion with $10,000 in prizes and a further $10k up for grabs. This led to Triple M’s Danny Frawley and James Brayshaw to take training one evening and they were on his coat tails on Monday afternoon with an interview on The Rush Hour.  You can listen to that interview on our website at www.vafa.com.au. Finally David finished up with the 96.5 INRFM VAFA Footy panel this morning. 
Whilst they were in front by five goals at three quarter time, there would have been a few nervous players as the coach gave his final address.  More nervous were the players when they sang the club theme song as barely a handful had played in a winning Chadstone team.  Well done to them and hopefully you can get another and give you something to build on for 2013.
The other club to win their first game was Power House in Division 3.  They had a draw earlier in the season but with that win they have a chance to stave off relegation.  All of a sudden a season that was seen as one of the clubs worst in history can have a silver lining. They will need at least one more win in the final two matches, but how quickly things can turn around.
The other highlight was at the Kew ground where Ivanhoe’s twenty year old full forward sensation Ash Close became the first player to kick the ton this year. Ash has progressed from the Ivanhoe Under 19 team and developed into the leading full forward in the VAFA.  It wasn’t enough to stop Kew from defeating Ivanhoe although the loss won’t affect their double chance prospects with two games to go. 
The Club XVIII finals commenced last Sunday with three qualifying finals in Section 1.  There is no doubt there were some anxious moments in the first two games as no one was guaranteed the double chance.  However the top three teams all had convincing wins and the beneficiary of the new format has allowed fourth placed Prahran Assumption to progress to the Preliminary finals this Sunday. In Section 2 Hawthorn’s victory takes them straight into the Grand Final whilst Therry and Richmond Cardinals do battle in the Preliminary Final.
The action in all sections is hotting up with only two matches left in the Division and Junior sections and three in the Premier sections.  The highlight match in Premier is Old Carey hosting a revitalised Old Scotch.  These clubs have been engaged in a battle for the fourth spot for the past two months. A win to the Cardinals will see them secure their place in the finals.
Another great round of VAFA football and to keep up with all the live scores download the app m.vafa.livscores.redtxt.com.au 

Getting serious on concussion 
An email crossed my desk advising me that Brain Injury Awareness Week – or in footy speak concussions week – was commencing this Monday. The whole issue regarding player safety is a major concern to the VAFA and I raised the topic of head high tackles in the May 12 editorial and concussions are another concern that can arise each week on the football field.
This is an opportune time for all clubs to reflect on areas of our game that have far reaching consequences beyond the final siren.  The issues of player concussions came home to me when a fatality occurred in the Western Australian Amateurs last year. A plan to assist trainers is now before the VAFA’s doctor for review, and if approved will be sent to clubs immediately.
The facts surrounding concussion are that 3000 people are hospitalised in Australia after being concussed playing sport each year. You can triple this number for those who won’t seek medical attention and as many as ten times that number won’t report their concussion to teammates, coaches or family because they may fear being removed from play or are simply not aware they are concussed. Returning to sport before the brain has recovered puts the player at risk of long term brain damage.
I was amazed to read Steve Johnson’s quotes after the Geelong win last Friday night. 
“I had a concussion test on Thursday, which I passed, and then I had another – just a light run – on Thursday. Then I didn’t feel really great after that, either, so I did a concussion test again [on Friday] at about 11am and I passed that. Although I probably wasn’t feeling 100 per cent, I thought, ‘Well, I have passed it, I might as well get out there.  Once I did get a bit of NoDoz [caffeine tablets] in the system, and those type of things, and the game comes around, I was really lucky to be a part of it.”
How club medical staff deal with concussed players and those with head injuries has become an issue of great importance. That Johnson twice passed the concussion test when he wasn’t feeling 100% rings alarm bells to me that the tests may not be stringent enough.  
Surely the first most important test is an internal one and how you feel is first question that should be answered.
Playing after concussion can lead to long term risks – lapses in short term memory and the losing of senses. Other issues relating to depression can occur, which were highlighted by former Bulldog and VAFA player Matt Robbins, however evidence relating to the two are yet to be medically proven. 
For Robbins the symptoms started out as headaches, which drifted into migraines a couple of weeks after he’d been hit. Two years before his retirement, he was diagnosed with depression. He kept it from his club. 
Maybe we don’t take concussion seriously enough and as a result ignorance is widespread. I believe that most people still believe that you have to be passed out to be concussed.  
Similarly neck injuries involving bumps and front on contact are becoming too prevalent in our games. Each week we are getting players reported for this and our umpires have been advised to ensure the safety of players by enforcing this.  
As explained in our Handbook on pages 72 and 73: A player can bump an opponent’s body from side-on but any contact forward of side-on will be deemed to be front-on;
A player with his head down in anticipation of winning possession of the ball or after contesting the ball will be deemed to have his head down over the ball for the purposes of this law.
We do not want to have players missing finals as a result of being reported for this and even worse we don’t want to see a player in a wheelchair for the rest of his life as a result of careless action.
For this year’s Brain Injury Awareness Week, let’s know the “Five Rs” of concussion – Recognise the injury, Remove yourself from play, Referral to a doctor, Rest and then Return to play.
Two Preliminary Finals Better Than One?
The front cover of the Amateur Footballer sums up football last week – rain, muddy cricket pitches and cold.  For the modern footballer this is a new challenge as in the past decade they have been playing on hard, dry grounds where the ball bounces up and you don’t have to spend the day on hands and knees just to get a possession.
Wet weather football generally means low scoring and the result will depend on who makes the most of their limited opportunities.  In the Premier Section match of the round last Sunday, at half time Old Carey had scored the only major but ended up losing to Old Xaverians three goals to two.
The low scoring didn’t detract from the game as ball ups, boundary throw-ins and tough contests were the order of the day.  This was a great contest that meant each forward thrust was critical.  It was a throw back to the past where kicking backwards, short passes and even drop punts were dispensed with as yardage (a term more familiar with the 1970s) was more important than possession.
Many grounds would have suffered dramatically due to the water with the run into the finals and relegation battles to be played in heavy conditions over the coming weeks.   
As clubs get ready, the VAFA’s finals preparation is well underway. The last round of the Club XVIII competition is this week with the finals to commence next weekend.  Section 1 has 12 teams with a final six in operation for the first time. Two preliminary finals have been an incredibly successful inclusion to the AFL finals program both in terms of revenue and suspense. 
The Club XVIII final six has allowed us to experiment with a new finals schedule conducted over three weeks with both grand finalists to play the week before the big one. In week one there are three fixtured matches: 1 v 6, 2 v 5 and 3 v 4.  The three winners and the highest placed loser progress to the preliminary final.  
The team on top is certain of progressing through to the prelim, and if they win then the second team becomes the beneficiary of a double chance to still progress.  There is a great advantage of finishing on top, but you still need to play well in three finals to secure a premiership. 
Bringing two preliminary finals into the senior sections in the future would add an extra dimension to our finals. The winners of preliminary finals would not only progress to the grand final, but also gaining promotion.  More importantly two cut throat matches played on the same weekend would also see both grand finalists playing with the same break.   
For a top four finals system, a four week finals series is a thing of the past. No longer is the second semi final played on the weekend following the first semi. This schedule granted the winner of the second semi a path straight into the grand final and another weekend off. It meant that the one of the teams on grand final day had only played one match in the past month.  
We have removed this anomaly by having all semi finals on the same weekend, making it a three week series.  In the future perhaps we will see a system that has two preliminary finals and no rest for either competing club before the biggest game of the year. 
I will be watching these two Club XVIII Preliminary Finals with great interest and I am sure all the players, whilst they may not admit it, will enjoy the added pressure that it brings.

From Olympics to football amateurism prevails 
Over the past month there has been a feast of sport in Europe, with many employers conscious of their tired employees whilst trying to mask their own fatigue; Wimbledon,  the Tour de France,  major championship golf and even Casey Stoner and Mark Webber have many of us burning the candle at both ends.  
With the London 2012 Olympic Games commencing this weekend the tired and glazed over look on people’s faces are set to continue for another fortnight. 
The original Olympic ideals of amateurism have been replicated in amateur sport around the globe and in our competition prevail today. Many educators believe that sport forms an important part of education, the inference being that a sound mind needs a sound body.

The belief was that man needed to exude all-round skills and attributes and not just be best at one thing in order to be successful in life. This is one of the reasons professionals were excluded from the Olympics until the 1980’s.

The amateur ethos has survived at the VAFA where the same principles of the all-rounder survive. Amateur status was valued and thought to be the way to determine a true sportsman. 

Examples of how important amateur status was to an athlete or footballer and the officials running a competition are scattered through the past. Most notable was American Jim Thorpe whose 1912 Stockholm Olympic Gold medals for decathlon and pentathlon were stripped from him as evidence was submitted that Thorpe received money from participating in professional sports. Thorpe’s honours from 1912 were finally restored in 1982, thirty years after his death.

Amateur football was no different, as many players who left their amateur club to play at VFL level continued to play for no money in order to retain their amateur status so that one day they could return to play in the VAFA.  

Indeed amateurism was so scrutinised that if you were a physical education teacher, you were deemed ineligible to play in the VAFA as you were receiving a salary derived from sport. These restrictions were not changed until similar changes to rulings were made for the Olympics. 

This mentality was mirrored in the Olympics when for the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games in Germany, the International Ski Federation (FIS) decided that ski instructors could not compete because they were professionals, and the Olympics were meant for amateur athletes only. 

The VAFA is proud of our amateur link to the Olympic Games and we are incredibly proud of our players who have represented Australia at the games.  On the website we have been running stories this week on some of these athletes. We have one current player, Christian Ryan, who has made a comeback to football with North Old Boys / St Pats after a brilliant rowing career. Christian won a sliver medal in the bow seat in the Men’s Eight at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

In that crew was Mike Mackay who played with Old Xaverians in the late eighties before becoming a member of the gold winning Oarsome Foursome in the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Games in the coxless four. At these two Olympic Games, the crew had five representatives and incredibly three of these played football in the VAFA. Along with Mackay, James Tomkins played for Old Carey and Old Brighton and Andrew Cooper played with Old Brighton.

The biggest story of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico was the gesture by 200 metre gold medallist Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos showing their black power salute.  The silver medallist from that race was dashing West Brunswick wingman Peter Norman and he supported the two Americans by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on his tracksuit. 

Of course the VAFA had a major presence at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics when the VAFA played an exhibition football match on the MCG against amateur players from the VFL and VFA.  Surprising many but not the VAFA supporters, we won the match 12.9.81 to 8.7.55. The VAFA was captained by Geoff Hibbins of Collegians and the VFL by Denis Cordner from Melbourne and formerly Old Melburnians.

For more information regarding the VAFA and our links to the Olympics click onto vafa.com.au.

Last Sunday saw the final match in our representative program for the season with the Under 19’s playing a very strong VCFL.  The representative program is a major commitment by the Association that commenced pre-season with the two matches against the Eastern Football League.
The seniors had two matches and were outstanding in both.  The first saw a brilliant come from behind win against the EFL followed by a masterful display against AFL Sydney.  The team was coached by former Big V player and Old Xaverians premiership coach Simon Lethlean.  A great panel of assistants all volunteered their time generously to ensure two great wins.
It is the intention of the Board to support the representative program ensuring all segments of the Association are able to pull on the Big V.  This year along with our seniors we had a Premier C – Division 4 Big V side play against the EFL, the U23’s against WA amateurs and the Under 19’s against the VCFL.  A huge program that we believe benefits all players and clubs.
The Board is extremely grateful to all clubs who support the program and allow their best players to compete in these matches.  No other competition can boast a sustained representative program, one that commenced in 1925 when the VAFA wore the Big V for the first time against South Australia on the MCG. 
The pride in wearing the Big V doesn’t finish at the conclusion of the match.  Each year the Big V Club host a lunch to relive the games of yesteryear.  Two-hundred past and present players gathered at the RACV club to be reunited with people they may not have seen for 50 years.
The highlight of the day is the presentation and induction of three former Big V representatives who were elevated to Champion status.  This is a particularly special event for the player’s families who get to celebrate the feats of members who are no longer with us. Hampton Rovers champion Doug Arnold was represented by three generations of Arnold’s. After returning from the war as a fighter pilot, Doug captained the Big V each year from 1948 – 51 and was also captain of the All Australian amateurs which played in1950 and 1951.  
North Old Boy and former AFL tribunal chairman Shane McGuire was the second player to be inducted a champion. Shane Maguire represented the Big V in 1969, 71, 74, 75 and was captain in 1976. He played for the All Australian Amateurs in1971 and 1974 before being selected as the 1976 AAFC Carnival captain. After retiring Shane was a Big V selector from 1981 to 1986. A magnificent contribution of nearly 20 years to the Big V.
The final inductee was John Jones of Marcellin fame, who unfortunately couldn’t attend and was represented by his father Jack and brother Tony.  John played from 1981 – 84 consecutively and was captain in 83 and 84. In 1982 he was selected as All Australian vice captain.
Last weekend it was very exciting to see last year’s All Australian U23 Big V representative, Sam Dunell debut for St Kilda.  Sam represented the Big V in the winning AAFC carnival in Adelaide; he was subsequently picked up by Bendigo before being rookie listed by the Saints.  Sam’s father Frank is the current coach of Old Geelong and had previously coached St Bernard’s, North Old Boys and Old Essendon (PEGS). Frank played 115 games at Essendon and Brisbane before finding the VAFA after retirement. Sam joins Daniel Nicholson (Melb and Uni Blues) as our most recent Big V players to play in the AFL.
Maybe one or two of this years crop will get the opportunity to go onto the big stage but if not there will be the yearly Big V reunions and a lifetime of memories.
There is no rest this weekend for the Division and under age sections as the Premier sections take a breather.  The split round usually accommodates a senior representative match but this week only our Under 19’s will be pulling on the Big V against the VCFL.
Whilst the rep program may be considered by people as the major reason we have the bye it is actually done to spread the finals over a longer period and allow more opportunities to use better grounds and for the VAFA to administer the matches with higher quality umpires.
July can be the toughest month of the football season, where holidays in a warmer climate seems a much better option than slugging it out on muddy grounds in freezing conditions.  However these are the weeks where you can position yourself in your league.  The next three weeks will decide whether your club moves forward to finals, escapes relegation or you have a nervous August picking up the live scores app every minute to check the scores from around the grounds.
Assuming anything this far out is a dangerous occupation, however the first rule of senior amateur footy is to beat the threat of relegation.  In most cases you need to win six matches to ensure football in the same section next year.  I know this varies greatly and you can be fortunate enough to stay up with four and go down with seven wins, but these are rare occurrences. Don’t think if you have four or five wins now that you are safe. This provides motivation for those sitting at the tail of the ladders. 
For those fortunate enough to have won more than six games your next target is 11 wins. Eleven wins generally gets you a spot in September action. The only side guaranteed to date is South Mornington who are undefeated in Division 4. After Saturday the three ladder leaders from Divisions 1 – 3 may join them; North Old Boys/St Pats, Bulleen Templestowe and Yarra Valley OB.  Each of these teams have only lost once this year and after the weekend may be able to focus on the double chance.
In the junior sections only Werribee Districts in the Under 18’s are undefeated.  In Under 19 Premier Old Xaverians suffered their first loss of the season to third placed St Bernard’s opening up the race for the double chance.  De La sale have regained the lead on percentage and their second side sits atop the U19 South section.  
Northern Blues (formerly Northern Bullants) entered our ranks in the U18 competition in 2009. Their juniors have progressed and they currently have two teams, one in Premier B Thirds and the other is currently on top of U19 Section 3. We will follow their progress from a junior club, to possibly repeating the path of Werribee and Rupertswood in recent times.
On Sunday the Under 19’s play the VCFL.  In recent history of these matches the VCFL lead 3 – 2 and we look forward to evening up the ledger.  Dan Nicholson captained this team two seasons ago before being drafted to Melbourne and he returned to present the jumpers to the players on Thursday night. The captain is Dan Garside (St Bede’s/Mentone Tigers) who captained the team last year and won the Club Warehouse VAFA Rising Star. His vice-captain is Alexander Croft (Collegians), congratulations to both players on this extra achievement. 
Social Media, the good and the bad 
There has been a lot of press about use of social media by sports stars lately. It seems much of the sports news that makes the front pages these days has its origins in the social media messages of athletes that rightly or wrongly are held up as role models in our community. 
Whether it be shared photos that the public might not appreciate or a comment about an umpire or supporter we need to be aware that whilst it might be funny for you and your mates, once it is on social media it is in the public domain. 
The rule “If you wouldn’t say it to your grandma, then don’t say it” does not always apply. Different individuals have different levels of tolerance.
Social media has a role to play in amateur sport and in particular amateur football. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great ways to promote our game and share our league in a positive light. 
It is a chance to show off the high level of skill and talent of the players that run around on a Saturday afternoon in Melbourne to those that cannot get to games and to our many followers who live interstate or overseas. 
However we must be aware that social media is also a potential mouthpiece for negative comments that can just as easily detract from the league as well. 
Many of our players and club officials have profiles on Facebook and Twitter. The VAFA certainly see the benefit of uploading photos, videos, team and competition news to these sites to allow for interaction between followers of the league.
With over 12,000 registered players, all falling in the demographic of the social media generation, that is a lot of comments and photos that that are being made on a week to week basis. 
Problems only arise when people don’t think before they speak, or in this case write. As we have seen recently in the AFL, players can find themselves in trouble when caught publishing the wrong thing. 
We would encourage everyone to think before publishing bad language or negative comments about anything to do with the VAFA or any player or club you compete against. 
The association is working on a formal social media policy that will encourage participation but we remind everyone of the serious nature of abuse, vilification or defamation.
We thank the clubs for their support in ensuring these types of comments are not published as we all need to be aware that if anyone vilifies or has negative comments about umpires or officials then penalties may apply to the individual and the club. Penalties are likely to be in line with what you receive for similar negative comments or actions on game day.
The Twitter handle for official communications from the VAFA is @VAFA_HQ and you can find most of our staff on Twitter and Facebook. All of us monitor the content that is submitted in relation to our great competition. 
Until this policy is formalised and shared with the clubs I would encourage you all to ‘like’ the VAFA’s Facebook page and follow our Twitter account. Comment on photos, participate in the discussions taking place and promote the league as best you can. 
You can follow Michael Sholly on Twitter: @vafaceo  
This weekend is multicultural round in the AFL and a great opportunity to focus on the efforts of VAFA clubs and what we can do in the future to assist different communities experiencing the great game of Australian Rules.
In the VAFA we have various segments whose participants are from one nationality or religion and all of our clubs have players who are from various backgrounds.  This week on the VAFA website we have highlighted some of these players individually but there are thousands more in our community.
It is nineteen years since Nicky Winmar lifted up his jumper to the Collingwood crowd at Victoria Park that first highlighted the racial issues in the game.  Since then we should all feel proud of the stance the AFL has taken against racism on and off the field. It has been the leading sporting organisation in the country and should continue to play a leading role in making sure that everybody has an equal chance of playing football.
I proudly consider that the VAFA is the leading light in community football and it up to every one of our club leaders to show the way.  As Irish philosopher Edmund Burke is attributed to have said: All that is necessary for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing. Our club leaders cannot let any discrimination occur be it religious, race or sex.  
The AFL has produced an enlightening DVD featuring a number of AFL players and sportsmen speaking out about the issues they have confronted both inside and outside the porting arena. This DVD will be distributed to all clubs and I recommend that they show this too all players and officials at their club.
The AFL recently announced the appointment of the 10 Multicultural Ambassadors Nic Naitanui, Joel Wilkinson, Karmichael Hunt, David Rodan, Majak Daw, Bachar Houli, Harry O’Brien, Ahmed Saad, Leigh Montagna and Israel Folau. These Ambassadors will work one day a week on specific projects and are role models within many multicultural communities.
On Tuesday, I attended the launch of AFL Vic’s multicultural round where Uni Blues identity and current General Manager provided information on the Victoria’s future growth patterns.  It is projected that Victoria’s growth in the next 20 years will be 1.7 million and of these over one million will be from overseas migration.  This highlights the importance for our clubs to engage the multi cultural community. Of these over 90% are expected to settle in Melbourne, making overseas migration the main driver of Melbourne’s population growth. 
At the breakfast, AFL National Community Engagement Manager and coach of Beaumaris in Premier B, Jason Mifsud, led a panel which included Sudanese born North Melbourne player Majak Daw.  He stated: Everyone involved in Australian football should feel rightfully proud of the role the game has played in building bridges across many cultures – over many years. More than any other vehicle, football has this power. Footy provides the spirit to bring people together – despite our differences – so as a fan turning up to watch your team do battle this weekend, take a minute to look at the magnificent cultural diversity – both in the crowd and on the ground and remember that this is a game for everyone.
Last Saturday the Hawthorn Amateurs luncheon at Visy Park highlighted the issue of mental health.  This club has been affected with two of their players and a parent tragically taking their own lives. This lunch commenced the week where we focus on mental health in conjunction with the VAFA’s official partner charity One in Five.
This is such a critical issue that the premier of Victoria, the Hon Ted Baillieu deemed it important enough to attend.  He spoke of the value that clubs play in providing a wonderful community environment for people suffering to find solace.  Ted mentioned a number of prominent sports people who have suffered and how each of these respective sporting communities has supported them through the difficult periods of their life.
Bill Brownless also spoke of his personal experience with a current Geelong footballer who is suffering from depression. He has been very impressed with the support given to him by the player group and coaches. They have made allowances in his training program and supported him, not judged, as he endeavours to fight his way through this illness.
Last Thursday we requested that each of the club’s presidents speak to all the players highlighting the problems surrounding this medical condition.  The players were given two leaflets and were encouraged to read them. Hopefully this will provide a more open and supportive culture at our clubs.
The VAFA and One in Five began our community partnership in 2011 with the goal of raising money for medical research to find a cure for mental illness, and also to help clubs educate players about mental illness.  Unfortunately mental illness touches one in five Australians, with the greatest number being males aged between 18 and 24. 
The good news is that because it is a medical condition, like breaking your arm, you can get help. It is important to know that you can get this help.  Most people with mental illness recover and lead good lives when they receive treatment and support.  We therefore encourage you to get help if you need it or that you encourage a mate who you may think he is suffering in silence.
Your club can create a great sense of belonging and can be a real support and source of strength for anyone with a mental illness.  Each club needs to create an open culture where no-one feels isolated.
Unfortunately the statistics surrounding mental health and suicides is alarming.  More Australians commit suicide than die on the roads each year, with 77% being men. Suicide now ranks as the leading cause of death for those under 45.
Regrettably, someone from the wider VAFA community passes away each year from depression.  We believe that if we build team support, we can help share the burden by knowing more about mental illness.  Let’s take this opportunity to spread the word about mental illness, help our team mates who suffer from this tragic disease, and raise money for One in Five.
BRAVO TO OUR VOLUNTEERSThe past two weeks has seen the Senior and Under 23 representative teams play two of our interstate rivals in AFL Sydney and the Western Australian Amateurs.  Both games were played with the intensity and skills you would expect from elite players and it was particularly satisfying to see our players bond together so well to play as a team and win both matches.It is a real combined effort where the competition comes together as one.  The board, staff, coaches, umpires, medical staff and others all work hard together to get the job done.  From a staff point of view it is a wonderful opportunity to get involved in a team that many have left behind to pursue their careers in sports administration.  I am sure it gives the board members great pride to see the Big V represented by such a terrific group of players and coaches. It is these off field coaches and officials that I would like to pay special tribute.This round of football is specially designated to our volunteers. There are no AFL matches on Saturday and therefore the perfect time to focus on these great men and women who give of their time to ensure the survival of your clubs.  In all my discussions with clubs the number one risk affecting the future of our clubs is the recruitment and retention of volunteers.  The representative matches are a wonderful opportunity for the VAFA to reward some of these volunteers.  This year alone we have had over 50 members of our clubs give up their time to assist with these representative matches. Whilst I may be highlighting the volunteers at the VAFA, multiply this by the seventy-three clubs and you will grasp the importance and the depth of our volunteerism.In each of our matches we have had a head coach, four to five assistant coaches, a runner, two or three water carriers,  two trainers, a physiotherapist and a doctor, a timekeeper, team manager, interchange official and the list goes on.  All of these people give of their time and expertise for no financial reward.  They are all volunteers who do it for the love of the game.  No wonder that this has been the catch cry of the VAFA for generations and will continue to be so.VAFA football is about people. There are thousands of stories that happen each week before a ball is bounced each Saturday – and it is the volunteer that provides the bond for the clubs.  One place where this has been highlighted has been the introduction of VAFA TV.  The objective of this is not to highlight the on field achievements of a club but to meet the identities behind the scenes that make the club run and provide the individual nuances that make their club special. From the coach’s serious address, to the players when reading out the teams, to the joker who comes out to entertain and generally take the mickey out the past week’s events. Behind the scenes there is always someone doing the cooking or getting the players registered or organising a function. There are a thousand things to do and so few to do them.So this Saturday, let’s all go out of our way to recognise the volunteers. Great volunteers don’t do it for acknowledgement and generally shy away from recognition however just this one day we should do all we can to thank them for their continued loyalty and support.  For them it is not all about winning or losing but more about values like respecting the opposition and the umpires, giving your total effort to the team and your club through the ups and downs of a season.   

The events in the Northern Football League’s Under 17 match between the Lalor Stars and Lalor Bloods exposes issues for society much broader than behaviour problems of footballers. 
I am sure it was not the intention of those two clubs that adolescents in their charge behave in a violent and aggressive manner that led to some leaving in a paddy wagon while others left by ambulance.
No doubt these clubs are led by people seeking to give young men an opportunity to enjoy playing our great game. Yet despite these efforts, the behaviour of a few of these lads escalated into an all-in brawl, which has tarnished the reputation of the two clubs, the league and the game.
The VAFA doesn’t have a junior competition as such but does have fifty odd teams playing in either U18 or U19 football. The volunteers who administer these teams for our clubs play a magnificent role, not just for their club, but for society. All young men are challenged as they transfer from a disciplined and somewhat regimented school environment into the relative freedoms of university, TAFE or jobs. They have left behind the structured lifestyle of school for an environment of greater choice.
The one constant through this period can be the football club. This may be the one facet of life where things are stable. Every week, there is discipline required to come to training at a specified time, to organise for match day and to play in a team with rules and structures. This structure plays an important role in the maturation from adolescent to adult. It is in this environment too that adolescents are able to display their natural aggression. Unfortunately in some, this aggression is difficult to control. 
In the VAFA, we have noticed this season a decrease in the number of teams in our junior level. We are aware of the difficulties clubs have in finding the players to fill those teams that have survived. For most clubs, it is a yearly battle that affects long-term viability. The volunteers who give of their time should be applauded as they are doing so much for society.
Every effort was made at the start of the season to ensure the competitiveness of our Under 19 competition however it is an impossible task to predict the standard of each of the sections. Playing in matches that are not competitive can lead to frustration and there is little incentive for players to continue backing up each week in the full knowledge that they are in for another 100 point drubbing.
Consequently the VAFA Board has decided to adjust the competitions for the remainder of the season. At the conclusion of this weekend’s matches, two teams from each of the sections will be re-fixtured to the section below to allow for greater competitiveness in matches. 
Whilst we may be appalled by the events at Lalor last week, we shouldn’t think of it as a "football problem". Given that 90 per cent of those in our prisons have never played a team sport, we need more football, not less. 
Clubs are administered by good people with honest values who are making a great contribution to society. These people are endeavouring to provide that consistency and structure to young men who are getting very little of it at home. 
Parents must continue to provide leadership for their children and not leave it to the few club people who give their heart and soul each week. 26.5.12
Last week in the Amateur Footballer, Ryan Colbert wrote a terrific article reliving his experiences playing in Big V teams over the past few years. One could feel the pride in his words as he talked of the enjoyment he has derived representing the Big V. 
In most of the matches he describes, the result has come down to the pride in wearing the Big V jumper and representing the VAFA. These matches are about connecting with a variety of people who all have one thing in common – playing for the love of the game. So many times this intangible spirit has got the team over the line. 
My first recognition of this spirit was when I headed down to Sandringham to watch the Big V take on the VFA in 1982. Foolishly I had assumed we would get thumped playing against household names like Fred Cook and Billy Swan (father of Dane). In an incredible match, the VAFA came from eleven points down at three quarter time to kick ten final quarter goals and run over the VFA for a shock win. 
The spirit of that win, and I’m sure countless others before, continue with those who represent our Association today. Already this season the Big V jumper has been worn with pride when our players played against the Eastern Football League at both senior and Premier C – Division 4 level. We were no match for the EFL in the curtain raiser, though our senior boys lifted in the final stanza in another come-from-behind victory to spoil the EFL’s 50th birthday party. 
A lot of the bonding that fired this win took place last year in Shepparton and again in Ireland at season end, when the boys became a tight-knit bunch. It was no surprise to me that the young men in the Premier C – Div 4 game who had also been to Ireland stayed around after their game to watch their touring teammates. 
Each year, each game begins a new friendship. In the AF last week, the U23 squad to play Western Australia was announced and today the senior squad to play AFL Sydney is published. 
The U23 match is scheduled for next Sunday at Sportscover Area at 1:30pm. Unfortunately due to the WA public holiday coming early, our players will have to forego a VAFA match to play. Only those who want to represent the Big V will be selected. 
Whilst the competition takes a rest over the Queen’s Birthday weekend, the Big V head to Sydney for its match against AFL Sydney at Blacktown. Four years ago, the game was a cliff hanger, with the Big V scraping home by 5 points. 
It is little wonder that the AFL Players Association have requested the AFL look into representative football. Why should the Ammos have all the fun? 
Last Sunday at Sportscover Arena a bigger than usual crowd was entertained in the Premier match between Collegians and Old Scotch. This weekend we have De La Salle and Old Trinity, followed next weekend by the Big V. Keep these family friendly 1.20 starts in mind when planning your Sundays. 
19.5.12 The AFL has built its draw on key days where each club get the opportunity to play matches when no other games are played.  The peak time for the stand-alone games is Friday night, which has incredible appeal for clubs to be able to showcase their wares and sponsors on free-to-air television. This concept was highlighted during the week when the AFL took the opportunity due to Mothers Day to reschedule a Sunday game to Monday night.  As I don’t support either St Kilda or Carlton, my motivation to watch the game was low – I had forgotten the game was on until the first bounce. 
However, I must say I did enjoy relaxing in front of the TV, watching live footy rather than another mindless reality program. Over the past season or two the VAFA has implemented a similar strategy, scheduling one Premier match on a Sunday at Sportscover Arena.  The thought behind this is to give the players, volunteers, officials and supporters of all clubs an opportunity to watch a VAFA match.  Once you get involved at a VAFA club, one is in it boots and all and there is little exposure to the rest of the competition.  
Outside finals, one doesn’t get the chance to sit back and watch a VAFA game without personal involvement. Generally at a Sunday game, you can see Premier coaches and their assistants from other clubs with their notebooks out trying to figure out the various teams’ structures. It shouldn’t be limited to just our Premier coaches.  What better opportunity for all VAFA club coaches to view the different strategies that work in the VAFA.  Most coaches use the AFL as their platform to introduce new ideas but in reality we are so far off the AFL in terms of coaching and player development that it seems perfect sense to me that the Premier section is where the lower section coaches should get their ideas. And I can promise you that the coaches in Premier level know their stuff. This Sunday sees two of the great VAFA clubs do battle at Sportscover Arena.  Reigning premiers and clearly premiership favourites Collegians take on one of the proudest VAFA clubs in Old Scotch.  Interesting to note that both clubs have dual coaches leading their respective clubs.  At Collegians, we have former players who also excelled in the AFL and WAFL Simon Arnott and Mark Hibbins.  
For Old Scotch, we have former Hawk premiership player and VAFA State Coach Dean Anderson alongside Stuey Powell who has coached at senior level for AJAX and St Kevin’s. The only loss these two clubs have experienced this year is when a kick after the siren failed to get Scotch home in their Round 1 match against De La. The VAFA Board has decided to open the gates and make entry free to these home and away clashes.  We are the only senior competition in Victoria where every home and away match is free of charge. The senior game commences at the friendly time of 1.20pm so that the matches are all wrapped up by 4:00, so as to not intrude into Sunday evening. 
Next Sunday we have De La Salle playing Old Trinity and the week after that, our VAFA U23 team will be playing the Western Australian Amateurs. I would recommend to all supporters to consider heading down to Sportscover Arena on any given Sunday to see what is the best standard community football competition in the country.   
Using one’s head. It can take a couple of years for a tactical trend in the AFL to flow over to the VAFA.  In the last ten years, we have seen the flood and the huge increase in interchanges take their place on our fields and now we have coaches keen for players to employ the press.   
I am not totally au fait with this ploy but I am sure it takes a lot of education, time and buy-in from players for it to work. More will talk about it than be successful with it.    
Other changes to the rules or interpretations have been implemented by the AFL to speed up the game, increase spectator enjoyment or enhance the safety for the players.  Some of these have not been introduced by the VAFA for reason of either lack of relevance or lack of man power to police them. One rule that comes to mind is hands in the back, which is still legal in the VAFA as long as there is no push involved.      
In 2007, the AFL introduced a tough stance on high tackles when CEO Andrew Demetriou referred to the head as "sacrosanct".  Accordingly all football competitions around the country followed this doctrine. All of our coaches were briefed on the correct way to tackle a player when approached head on.    
However, it seems now that players are seeking to use this doctrine to their advantage and the effect of this could be serious injuries. This week the head high tackle has been highlighted as players are endeavouring to slip under the tackle to allow the tacklers arms to slide up around their neck or to the head.  The second and more dangerous method is where players are using their heads to force front on contact and be rewarded with a free kick.  This method needs to be outlawed for the protection of the ball carrier.    
I asked VAFA General Manager of Umpiring Brian Goodman, to explain the interpretation given to our umpires: "The player who ducks his head in an attempt to gain a free kick will not be rewarded. The umpires are instructed that if the player contributes to the high contact then ‘play on’ will be called".    
However the umpires are instructed to protect the player going for the ball and therefore their natural tendency should be to always reward that player.   This grey area is causing players in the AFL to test the umpires.  In the VAFA, our players are not going to risk neck injury for the sake of a free kick.  Or are they?  Competitiveness, will to win and natural aggression all come into a contest and players might use their heads if they believe a free kick will result.    
The AFL Laws are there to ensure player safety and in my opinion this law doesn’t guarantee it.  If you put your head down and make contact with a stationary player, then the player should not be rewarded with a free kick. However players are then unsure as to whether they can even lay a tackle and these players sometimes get a rite of passage.   
Should we go so far as to say, for the protection of players, that a free kick is awarded against players who lead with their head and barge into contact?  In basketball, if the blocker is stationary, the foul is called on the ball-carrier.    
As for the press, I am not convinced that all clubs have the fitness to ensure mastery of it. I do know that if the ball comes over the top and behind the last line, it’s time to get the skates on and run like Billy Slater.  

Vale Maurie Considine
Posted November 27, 2023
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