Abolish the VFL Reserves and strengthen local football. This is a solution to the notion that football is all about the AFL and to hell with grass roots clubs where, by the way, most AFL footballers started their careers.
While the VFL is clearly a “reserves” arrangement for the AFL where all VFL clubs now have an affiliation with an AFL team, the system effectively is giving only 10 / 12 local players the opportunity to play in the VFL senior side each week.
The VFL continuing to have a reserves grade competition is proving to be detrimental to the strength of the game at lower levels. The fact that not every VFL side has a Reserves side highlights the varying levels of commitment to the concept.
The SANFL and the WAFL have a very good system in place, By following it, Victorian grass roots clubs could benefit greatly.
It would work like this :
- Each VFL club would still have a full list of 20 local players, i.e. up and coming players (top age 23) drafted from local clubs from which a 1st XVIII is chosen (apart from the AFL players who don’t make senior selection, generally 10 / 12)
- Players not selected in the VFL 1st XVIII team would then continue to play with their local teams
- The VFL club would have priority over their listed players at selection time
The results of abolishing the VFL Reserves competition would strengthen local competitions and local clubs, as well as players, in the following ways:
- Increased number of quality players playing in local leagues
- Standard of play in the next level down (major league followed by minor leagues ) would lift accordingly
- The competition would become more professional
- Local clubs would develop stronger identities and stronger cultures
- Young players would have more opportunities to play against stronger and more experienced players, thereby speeding up their maturity
- Players/personnel not required at VFL level would bring back to their local clubs a broader experience of coaches, fitness advisers and trainers.
- Local clubs would form closer relationships with their VFL Clubs, knowing that their own players can still play at the higher level, but when not selected, would continue to play with their local clubs. Every player needs a club to call home.
The argument that the VFL Club coaches need to retain control over their total list is weak. If the AFL Clubs ‘trust’ their VFL coaching panels to manage their players at the next level down, why cannot the VFL coaches apply the same trust to the next level again?
It is simply about open communication.
In addition, the removal of the VFL Reserves would result in a far more cost effective system for VFL clubs. Why should hard-to-get money be squandered on another level of football competition?
Let’s apply some financial efficiency for the good of the game so that the grass roots are well nurtured – after all, that’s where the Hirds, the Buckleys the Locketts the Abletts and the Goodes started their champion careers.