Modern dynasties – AFL to the VAFA

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Nick Armistead

What a week it’s been for Victorians and the VAFA community.

After the year that has been 2020, watching Richmond, the Vixens and the Storm achieve premiership success has certainly given us a sense of local pride on the sporting front. On the we’re-allowed-to-go-outside-and-live-our-lives-again front; well, you only need to take a stroll down Swan Street to see how well Melburnians are doing that – boy, it’s a beautiful sight.

Back to sport, there’s little opposition to Cam Smith and his Storm side being considered the greatest since the turn of the century with four flags (I ain’t seeing you Roosters). And while our netballers have secured their third since 2008, it is Richmond’s latest triumph that has catapulted them into the conversation of modern AFL dynasties.

The four teams – Brisbane (2001-03), Geelong (’07, ’09, ’11), Hawthorn (2013-15) and the Tigers (’17, ’19-20) – have each provided great happiness for long-suffering fans but it has only served to fuel the bar-side debate of which team is the greatest. They usually go something like this:

Brisbane – One of only two sides to win three in a row and they competed for a fourth, while the names of Voss, Black, Akermanis, Lappin, Power, Brown, Lynch, Hart, Scott x2, White, Leppitsch, Keating + a whole lot more will go down in history as all-time greats. Also, just in case you didn’t know, we had a guy called Leigh Matthews as our coach – fair operator.

Geelong – Just as many premierships as the Lions but spaced over five seasons – greater longevity surely? Also, if you want to talk about great names – Ablett, Bartel, Scarlett, Chapman, Enright, Corey, Stevie J, Hawkins, Selwood & Bomber. We’ve also been around the finals ever since.

Hawthorn – Clarko –the greatest coach of the modern era. A student of the game and he basically changed the way football is played. Luke Hodge rivals Vossy’s leadership and we only needed Buddy for 2013 because Gibson, Lewis, Roughead, Cyril, Breust, Smith, Burgoyne, Birchall, Gunston and Mitchell could pick up the slack. In case you missed our main point – Clarko.

Richmond – Perhaps not the most talented on paper, but geez we’re the best team. We harass, we pressure, and boy do we surge at every opportunity. That’ll break down any defensive zone. While we have a team who buys into Dimma’s game plan and culture (2020 had its issues), we mix that with genuine stars – Dusty ‘Thrice’ Martin, Cotchin, Reiwoldt, Lynch, Prestia, Edwards, Grimes, Vlastuin, Houli etc.

While these clearly aren’t word-for-word, it’s generally the theme of the conversation and shows just how passionate we are about out great game.

It’s impossible to compare this to VAFA teams of the past 20 years given the sectional structure of the competition – and because Old Xaverians have won seven William Buck Premier flags since 2003 – but we can look back on and admire individual dynasties nonetheless:

  • Old Xaverians: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009-10, 2013, 2016 (all in Premier)
  • St Kevin’s OB: 2015 (B), 2017-18 (A)
  • St Bedes/Mentone Tigers: 2006 (C), 2007 (B), 2008 (A)
  • Preston Bullants: 2013 (D4), 2014 (D3), 2016 (D2), 2019 (D1)
  • Kew FC: 2013 (D3), 2014 (D2), 2015 (D1)

It’s always difficult to select a favourite team of any era, but for what it’s worth, those Brisbane Lions were something else.

The standout feature of the AFL Grand Final from a VAFA perspective was our very own Umpire Operations Manager, Matt Dervan, earning selection as one of the two officiating goal umpires. It was Matt’s first AFL decider and he followed up a flawless display with selection as the standalone All-Australian Goal Umpire. Achievements do not get any higher in his chosen field – an outstanding effort from the great man.

In terms of winning, the Footy Ops team look to have won a legion of fans with the recent announcement of the VAFA ‘Supers’ competition. In 2021, the VAFA will officially implement the over 35’s competition and give senior players the chance to continue their playing careers or pull the boots back on post-retirement. While the news created significant buzz on VAFA socials, we’re now asking our community to have their say on the name of the competition – VAFA Supers, Masters, Champions, or Veterans. You can vote at the bottom of this week’s newsletter or via one of our social media polls.

Finally, after asking VAFA Life Member John Bell for the best player he’s seen since joining the Amateurs, he was unable to settle on anyone given his litany of off-field roles over the journey. Belly did, however, tell me the story of the best U19’s performance he saw back in 1982 when Tim ‘Nipper’ Merrett kicked eight goals and launched a Bulleen-Templestowe run into the finals. It is well worth checking out via the link above.

For now, enjoy the first weekend out of hard lockdown and Melbourne’s Spring Carnival festivities. We’ve well and truly earnt it.

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