Posted on - Latest News

When I was first approached to write a piece on my time representing the Big V, I wasn’t sure how I’d go distilling my experiences into words on a page. All of the memories and emotions involved with football are very hard to describe ‘after the fact’. Games tend to fly past in a blur and if you’re lucky, a few key moments might stick out in memory. Often it’s the simple things that end up sticking in the mind. Things like the training, travelling, mateship and celebrations. Here are some of my key recollections of my time wearing the Big V.
My first exposure to VAFA representative football was in the 2009 under 23’s trip to Perth. I recall how exciting it was to be selected for the Big V for the first time. We did the customary photo shoot at VAFA HQ and were presented with our jumpers at a dinner ceremony. It’s good to see as time carries on, these traditions remain the same. The next day the playing group jumped on a plane bound for Fremantle and 28 degree heat in the middle of June. Suffice to say, conditions suited the home side for the Sunday game. Heartbreakingly, we lost the contest by a solitary point in what turned out to be a back and forth battle. The on field setback did not deter the boys from painting the town red that night.
Although I played U23’s once more, I can’t say I fully understood the Big V experience until my time playing in the Senior sides. Undoubtedly my most memorable experience was the 2013 end of season trip to Ireland to play International Rules. Confronted with the prospect of a round ball and an unlimited supply of lean, fast and agile Irishmen – it’s safe to say none of the boys knew what we were getting ourselves into when we signed up. What the group lacked in experience, we made up for in application and team work. Unlike our Irish counterparts, the VAFA team spent many hours bonding over pints of Guinness at one of the country’s many fine watering holes. Although I never quite got the taste for the creamy, rich stout beer (it always seemed like more of a meal than a drink), the time spent sharing stories with the players was in many ways the most important training we did.
We ended our 4 game series 2 – 2 against the Irish, which can be seen as a win considering one of the games saw us face off against a fearsome All Ireland side. We provided Ireland’s best 22 with a warm up game to their International Rules clash against the Australian Indigenous side. It was an honour to be able to play against the best footballers in the emerald isle – and despite being easily accounted for – the occasion was not lost on any of the VAFA players. The boys certainly felt a lot better about our 100 point loss when the Australian side was downed by nearly the same margin in the final game of their own series.
Aside from the many trips away, the training experience with the Big V is something which stands out in my mind. It’s undoubtedly the highest quality training a player will take part in for the year. The speed and quality always makes it a pleasure to be a part of. I highly recommend that any player who has the chance to train in a Big V squad, take the opportunity if only for the experience alone.
In my time playing rep footy for the VAFA, one thing has become apparent over all others. The motto “for the love of the game” is not just a throwaway catchphrase, but an embodiment of the Big V program. It’s inspiring to see a collection of the competition’s most talented players put their hand up to represent the Big V on their bye weekend. These character traits were certainly on display in our pre season game against the EFL. The team’s willingness to work for each other was a key factor in getting the result in a tough, tight game. This mixture of pride and determination is certainly something that is unique to the VAFA and something, which sets our representative program apart from that of other leagues. I hope to see the VAFA continue to invest in the Big V program and the benefits it brings to the competition and the young men who partake in it. 
Thomas Paule (Old Melburnians)