Gotcha Mitch in 2006
Did anyone seriously think the quietly spoken bloke we call ‘Gotchie'
could find a way through the Bullants confounding ‘behind the ball'
game in last week's qualifying final? In doing so Brad Gotch, a
VFA premiership player with Dandenong (1991) and premiership coach
with Springvale (1996) and Williamstown (2003), showed that he is
a master of his trade. If there was a moment that captured his grasp
of all things football and his poise it was the glance he cast Mick
Malthouse's way when the Magpie coach went into paroxysms of anger
and despair in the box, on camera, a few weeks back. For the past
month Gotch has cast that gaze towards the Bullants seemingly invincible
game plan. A 10-goal last quarter at Cramer Street by the Seagulls
was just rewards for the ‘smiling assassin's' attention to detail.
Now the VFL premiership race is alive again. Yet, for all the exhilaration
of Gotch's triumph it's impossible to ignore the questions the game
raised about the integrity of the VFL.
Although it was a VFL final, the only significant restriction on
the selection of players was the 12 AFL – 10 VFL rule. This meant
that the dazzling Magpie, Dale Thomas, despite having played not
one single VFL game, was able to be selected with the Seagulls.
His four goals showed how significant was that selection. And as
long as Collingwood is playing in the AFL finals he, or Chris Tarrant
for example, will be eligible to play with Williamstown. Not so
with Carlton players, who can only play with the Bullants if they
have met more stringent criteria, including seven VFL games should
they have played with Carlton after 1 July. Fortunately for the
Bullants they have more than 20 Carlton players qualified.
It's not hard to find an argument to justify the rules. The existence
of a clause precluding Thomas from playing against the Bullants
would not have been well received by Mick Malthouse. AFL clubs will
not accept rules that compromise their capacity to use the VFL as
a training ground. Unfortunately, this not only produces anomalies
but also creates a playing field that is far from level.
Despite the high stakes of the Frankston v Bullants match this
week coach Barry Mitchell will have at least seven Carlton players
- Bannister, Setanta O'hAilpin, Jackson, Blackwell, Teague, Deluca,
and Sporn - all of whom played against the Swans last week, in line
for selection. Yes, having players of this calibre can create excitement,
but at what cost?
The AFL introduced the salary cap and the draft to create a situation
in which merit and planning rather than the cheque book determined
who won the premiership? In the VFL the only clubs constrained by
the salary cap are stand-alone ones and the great winners are those
aligned clubs that qualify the most AFL players. Plucking a star
in the first week of the finals can help also. So, while having
quality VFL players and luck with injuries are important ingredients
in determining who wins the flag, the rules continue to give too
much weight to the AFL side of the equation. With the VFL certain
to tighten the rules governing Geelong, might we eventually see
a 12 VFL – 10 AFL or a 14 – 8 clause for finals? If only it was
an ideal world!
The VFL takes centre stage
Forget the MCG lying dormant until the grand final. What about
Mr Bracks calling on footy supporters to pack Port Melbourne over
the next two weeks and Princes Park on grand final day? If ‘Bracksey'
or the Lord Mayor, John So, doesn't grab this opportunity someone
in their respective public relations department isn't doing their
job. If it's good enough for the toff from Camberwell, Barry Humphries,
to be feted in town surely it's good enough for the old VFA? What
about a gathering in Federation Square? What about a nice little
130-year birthday bash to promote the grand final?
Shades of Coleman
My spies say Frankston's Aaron Edwards will not recover from his
knee problem in time to play on the weekend. The biggest thing in
VFA/VFL football since Cook and Miller, he is a genuine star, who
needs only 3 goals to become the first player since 1997 to kick
100 goals. If he doesn't play it will rival Bomber legend John Coleman
missing the 1951 grand final. Yes, that's how big it is for the
VFL and Frankston.
Medals and Oscars
Pencil in Barry Mitchell to coach Carlton and Daniel Harford to
win the Liston from Ezra Poyas and Aaron Edwards