I remember when you used to head down to the footy on a Saturday or Sunday arvo to see our favourite team take on someone else’s. You had to get there ahead of time so you could sit on the wing you wanted or get behind the goals on the off chance that when your favourite player slotted one through the big sticks, you might get a hand on it or better yet take a mark! Mum packed the sandwiches, Dad made sure you had your beanie, scarf and other supporter gear. Throw in a thermos for good measure and you were set. It didn’t matter that you had to be there early because of one thing – the Reserves.
Before the Seniors took to the ground at 2pm to the roar of the crowd, the Reserves got their moment on the big stage. These squads included some of your favourite blokes who may have been struggling for form or coming back from injury, but they were one thing – AFL Footballers. The contests were good, everyone was hard at it and you knew who to follow because they wore the same team Guernsey that you had on your back. But times have changed – there are really no curtain raisers (or rather a very minimal number of curtain raisers) and the Reserves competition is now the VFL.
I still cannot fathom why people don’t get behind the VFL. It is the best second tier competition in Australia. The WAFL and SANFL aren’t bad, but the VFL is by far and away the leader. As a second tier competition, the quality of game is superb. On any given day you can see your AFL aligned club take on another top notch team for VFL premiership points. The skills are superb, the contests very entertaining and the football is of the highest level. Of course it is – most of the guys on the park are AFL listed players! This has been brought to light by (for better or worse) Mr Brendan Fevola. coming back to the football scene through the VFL with the Melbourne-aligned Casey Scorpions, Fev has brought some marketability and attention to a league that should already have it in spades.
If we start to think of the VFL on this level, you may start to realize that for a few bucks each week or even less if you purchase a membership, you can see football of the highest quality in your back yard. As close to the action as you can ever get. You can be a short handball away from AFL players such as Mitch Duncan from Geelong, Ed Curnow, Ryan Houlihan, Shaun Hampson, Brock McLean from the Carlton-aligned Northern Bullants, Fev, Lynden Dunn, Matthew Bate and Max Gawn from the Melbourne-aligned Casey Scorpions, Barry Hall, Jarrod Grant, Will Minson, Lindsee Gilbee and more Western Bulldogs when they play for the aligned Williamstown Seagulls. Heck, you can even head to my hometown of Ballarat and see Lindsay Thomas, Liam Anthony, Cruize Garlett, Matty Campbell, Ben Cunnington and Daniel Pratt of the North Melbourne Kangaroos when you take in a Roosters match at Eureka Stadium.
The simple point is this – crowds aren’t as big as they should be and the excitement isn’t there like it deserves to be. There seems to be a stigma attached with VFL footy and it is unwarranted. I suggest everyone finds out who their VFL aligned team is and get along to a game. Support your Club, not just the Senior AFL team but all those who make the Club what it is. Your AFL side is made up of players that have come through the VFL system. Perhaps you can identify a young up and comer who may one day end up in your Supercoach side! Like Nike say – Just Do It. You may just surprise yourself and you are sure to see a sensational performance by one of the games elite.