Throw open the gates
Hardly a year has opened over the past decade without VFL officials asking what they can do to bring back the crowds of the ‘70s and early ‘80s. If there’s one thing, more than any other that troubles VFL administrators and club officials and dampens the enthusiasm of players it’s the absence of crowds on the terraces. Unfortunately, such is the pre-eminence of AFL football in Victoria it looks almost impossible to draw people to VFL matches in big numbers without a radical shift in strategy.
On Saturday the season opens with a grand final replay at Port between North Ballarat and Port Melbourne. Despite the significance of the game and the family-friendly nature of the ground it’s unlikely – given it is Easter and Ballarat people don’t travel in big numbers - the crowd will top 700. And with an adult ticket costing $10 and most people entering on a season’s ticket gate receipts won’t amount to a king’s ransom.
Maybe it’s time the VFL explored the possibility of allowing free entry for designated
Courting the SANFL
In a sign that all is not well in the VFL, rumours abound that at least one VFL club is exploring the possibility of joining the SANFL. Given what some clubs believe is a lack of genuine commitment to a second tier competition in Victoria in favour of the development of elite footballers the SANFL overtures should come as no surprise. As it stands, only four clubs, the unaligned Port Melbourne and Frankston and the financially powerful but aligned Williamstown and North Ballarat would be in a position to explore such a strategy. It wouldn’t be the first split in a football competition in Victoria!
Steady until the end
Those who knew former Dandenong premiership player and captain, Peter Stedwell, were naturally shocked and saddened to learn of his death. Although I can’t claim to have known him well, I always enjoyed catching up with him at VFA functions and sharing a story or two about the halcyon days ushered in by live telecasts in 1967. Peter was a member of Dandenong’s first VFA premiership team, in a game that remains one of the most controversial in more than 130 years of VFA-VFL history. The 1967 grand final was transformed into high farce when Port captain-coach Brian Buckley threatened to take his team from the Punt Road Oval in protest at the umpiring of David Jackson.
Four years later Stedwell was captain when umpire McMaster paid a free kick to legendary Dandenong full-forward Jim ‘Frosty’ Miller before the bounce of the ball at the Junction Oval. ‘Steady’ by name and in style Peter Stedwell was a rock in defence and is remembered by Miller as a quietly spoken man ‘who read the play really well and had a great set of hands’. Stedwell might not have been one of the big names of the old VFA, but he was part of an era and a moment in time that will live forever in the history books. It’s just very sad that we won’t again see his warm smile at VFL functions and marvel at the warmth of his relationship with his wife Yvonne. Peter and Yvonne truly were an item at such functions. ‘Steady’ was remembered at Wesley College on Monday.