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Andrew Leonard

With the VAFA’s two up and two down promotion and relegation system it is rare that a club spends a significant amount of time in any one section. With this in mind, many from outside the VAFA argue that this system doesn’t allow for serious rivalries between clubs to develop. In any one season, one rival could go up and the other could go down, ensuring few empty years without a clash against the old enemy. 
Whether VAFA clubs consider themselves as rivals is another matter altogether, but developing and maintaining a rivalry can be difficult when it can be a generation since some clubs have met each other at senior level. With the VAFA senior fixtures being released over the past week it gives us the opportunity to reach for the record books to see what rivalries can be renewed or created.
Most clubs do not sit in the same section for an extended period of time. The current best for two clubs in the one section is Old Scotch and Old Xaverians who will meet in the 2014 home and away season for a 23rd straight year in Premier. Old Scotch is also the club with the longest continuous run in any one section. Next year will be their 34th straight year in Premier or A Grade as it used to be known. Holding firm in a section as tough as Premier is no mean feat, although the Cardinals have not tasted senior premiership success for 35 years. 
For University Blues and the now Fitzroy Football Club, 2014 in Premier B will be the first time these two have met at senior level. Fitzroy Football Club has bloodlines to the University Reds via the Fitzroy Reds. Until recently the old University or Fitzroy Reds were found toiling away between Division 2 and Division 3. Blues on the other hand, have suffered their first relegation since 1991 and will play in Premier B for the first time since 1994 when they were runners-up. 
However the club with the current longest stretch in Premier B is St Kevin’s Old Boys. Last relegated from Premier in 2005, the SKOBS will play a ninth consecutive season in Premier B next year. 
Next season will also be the first season since 1998 in B Grade that both Ormond and Marcellin have met at senior level. The fortunes of the two clubs have been very different in the 16 years since their last meeting. Ormond had recently dropped from A Grade and battled in B Grade before a slow descent to Division 1. The Monders rebounded to pinch a C Grade flag but have not surged again since. The same year the clubs last met, Marcellin won the B Section flag. Three years later the Eagles were premiers in A Grade. Marcellin had an eight-year run in the top section and won another B Grade flag in 2008 before they had their double drop to Premier C where they still sit today.  
While both Marcellin and Ormond are relatively fresh in Premier C, the same can be said for the other eight teams in that section next year. The club with the longest run in Premier C is Old Camberwell. The Wellers will commence season number five at this level in 2014. 
The Division 1 mainstays are Old Mentonians. The Panthers are about to embark on season number 13 in this section. Division 1 is the middle section of the VAFA tree and due to their time there, Old Mentonians have played the largest variety of clubs in the past decade. 
Division 2 is by far the most fluid section of the VAFA. South Melbourne Districts are its current longest serving tenants; however the 2014 season will be just their fourth in a row at that level. Division 2 will also be home next year to the longest awaited reunion between two clubs. The 2014 season will be the first time in 65 years that Old Paradians and Elsternwick have met in the VAFA. You have to go back to 1949 in the old C Section for the last clash between these two sides. 
Power House will commence their eighth consecutive season in Division 3 next year, although UHS-VU are not far behind as they line up for a seventh straight year. Whilst in Division 4 Box Hill North will begin their 13th consecutive season in that section. The Demons joined the VAFA in 2002 and have yet to make a Grand Final to earn promotion. 
What does it all mean? Not much really. Whilst rivalries might be buried away when our fathers played for the club, the love for the VAFA continues and the excitement of two up and two down means every game has something on it for each of the 18 weeks of the season. If the aim is to win a premiership, then as many clubs know, sometimes you need to drop down a section in order to start the climb again.