Posted on - Latest News

It has been a big couple of weeks for coaches in Australian sport who for varying reasons, have been told to clean out their desks. The sacking of Mark Neeld as coach of the Melbourne Football Club is not an unusual occurrence, but Mickey Arthur’s dismissal a fortnight out from an Ashes campaign is unprecedented.  
These sackings have come in complete contrast to the outcome at University Blues where their coach, Fergus Watts, resigned his position so that he could return to play and endeavour to lift his club from the relegation places to assist in securing their position in Premier Section.
Amateur is the most fundamental ethos in our competition. It’s what sets us apart from every other football competition in the state. According to the VAFA Strategic Plan our Number 1 value is amateurism, where we play For the Love of the Game. The Number 1 goal of the Competition Integrity Committee is to vigorously uphold the “Amateur” ethos. Therefore the decision to grant Fergus a permit was given the utmost consideration.
The VAFA definition of an amateur is: 
An Amateur is one who does not receive or agree to receive, either directly or indirectly, any remuneration or reward whatsoever (whether by match payments or expenses or otherwise) in respect to their participation as a player, in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
On Thursday night the VAFA Board issued Fergus Watts a permit to play in our competition. A permit was granted on the condition that he and his club supply a statutory declaration by close of business on Friday stating, that he has not and will not receive any compensation for the work he had done for coaching University Blues for season 2013. 
It is an incredible display of loyalty to both his club and the competition that Fergus agreed to these conditions. The Board may have had to make a difficult call on whether he is granted a permit, but think of the sacrifices Fergus has made to play in the VAFA. A first round draft pick at Adelaide and then St Kilda, his AFL career was curtailed due to chronic ankle injuries. Fergus came straight to amateur football in spite of large offers to play in the metropolitan leagues. Then when his body had given way again and still only 25 years of age, he took up coaching to remain in the VAFA. He then relinquishes his position and the financial benefits associated, to pull on the boots for the final 9 games to give his team a chance to remain in Premier Section. To top it off, with all that going on, he showed his class by kicking five of his team’s seven goals on Saturday. I am sure through his own volition he wasn’t named in the best.
It is not easy being an amateur, especially when you are a player of quality who can command money somewhere else. It takes sacrifice. It might seem to many people that if you are going to play a game of football with your mates, that you may as well be getting paid for it if you can command money. However, here lies the true meaning of being an amateur. The journey is harder. But the rewards can be greater as a result. 
The events of the last week highlight to me that as some professional team’s values appear to be crumbling through greed and selfishness the values and integrity that the VAFA uphold are as relevant in 2013 as they were in 1892.