Michael Sholly – VAFA CEO
The Queen’s Birthday holiday editorial is generally set aside for the reporting of the Big V clashes that had occurred over the previous weekend. Sadly, there is nothing to report as the Under 23 Australian Amateur Football Council (AAFC) matches have ceased. The representative matches that will be occurring this year will be in a month’s time when the Senior and Under 19’s take on AFL Victoria Country and the Women play their inaugural representative match against AFL Goldfields.
The Australian Amateur Football Council (AAFC) consists of four members. Joining the VAFA is the South Australian Amateurs, West Australian Amateurs and the Tasmanian Football Council. This group of four have been playing Under 23 matches over the past decade but for varying reasons this competition has gone into recess this year.
The VAFA were scheduled to play Tasmania but unfortunately they were not able to form a team. Tasmania consisted of their three main community competitions – the Northern Tasmania Football League from Launceston, the North West Football League and the Southern Football League housed in Hobart.
The South Australian Amateurs (who are now a professional league) and the West Australian Amateurs were not able to agree on the match conditions with one wanting to play at senior level and the other at Under 23. So sadly the AAFC competitions did not play a match in 2017. The relationship with our partners in the Southern States has been the cornerstone of our representative program since we first played South Australia on the MCG in 1925. Moving forward we need to re-establish our relations with these leagues and ensure matches continue.
In 2016 AFL Victoria merged the Metro Championships, the VAFA were the No 1 seed, with the Country championships to have a combined State-wide Community Football Championships. The VAFA decided not to participate as we already had commitments to playing the combined AFL Victoria Country team and to also fulfil our commitments with the AAFC.
Representing the VAFA in matches around the country and wearing the Big V is one of the attractions of playing in the VAFA. This is changing now as all the metropolitan leagues are playing representative football in the Championships.
Keeping the VAFA at the forefront of representative football and offering a different product to the metropolitan leagues in Melbourne is critical to the strength and viability of the amateur game. The Ireland Tour is one of those examples where the VAFA lead the way. Most of our senior players have had opportunity to play for money but have remained loyal to their clubs and the Association. One way to repay their loyalty is to provide money can’t buy experiences. Representing the VAFA in Ireland, playing against the All Ireland team, functions at the Australian Embassy are all opportunities not being presented to any other footballers in Victoria.
The Ireland tour and interstate matches are an experience which binds our players together to make our competition bigger than just playing for a club. Players from all the clubs and sections mixing together gives all the tourists a deeper understanding of the competition. This is most notably observed as the players in Premier enjoy playing with those from the Division clubs and vice versa. It also gives our supporters who attend a greater appreciation of the competition as a whole. These are great events where the VAFA is recognised by the wider football community.
The campaign for the matches have begun with the naming of the representative teams. I would encourage all those selected to give their total commitment to the Big V as they will share a lifetime of friendships.