Time for AFL to resurrect the rezzies

Andrew Sutherland Roar Guru

By Andrew Sutherland, Andrew Sutherland is a Roar Guru

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    The NRL clubs have called for the return of a true reserves competition, believing that the current system promoting the under-age competition at the expense of its reserve grade is damaging the game.

    Hopefully, this ignites calls for similar action in the AFL.

    There is no doubt that a reserves outfit bearing the same name and jumper as the senior team, comprising only players from the club’s squad, and playing immediately prior to the senior match, is beneficial to the supporters, and more importantly, the players.

    As The Roar‘s Vince Rugari pointed out earlier in the year, the current system of AFL-listed players being farmed out on match day to clubs in the respective state competitions (VFL, SANFL and WAFL) is detrimental to the development of those players.

    They train permanently with the senior AFL squad and, despite wearing different coloured tops during match simulation and being forced to stand as a separate group while the coach addresses those selected for that week’s senior game, are part of the team.

    But on match day, while their ‘teammates’ warm up at the MCG, they’re trying to stretch out with blokes they have never seen before in a cramped change room in North Ballarat or Williamstown.

    Playing on suburban grounds does not prepare you for games at the major stadiums. The extra space changes the nature of the game. Coaches who think they can always judge a player on his readiness for AFL while playing on a VFL arena are fooling themselves.

    Mick Malthouse said in his 2010 premiership year that many in VFL sides are as skillful and talented as those in the AFL teams, but it’s other attributes, like the ability to handle the pressure of AFL, that are more important.

    So getting to play in a reserves match on the bigger stage – on a vast ground and in front of a big crowd – is vital for a player’s development.

    Football sites are filled with inquiries about the progress of young players, the recovery of injured ones and the performance of those who have been dropped. The answer, of course, is to go and see them play or, as I did this week, watch them train.

    Watching the VFL can be intriguing when older players ( who may have previously been AFL listed or who failed to venture beyond a preseason trial or two) dominate younger listed players who have been identified as having something special.

    While watching a training session it’s also interesting to see a fringe player upstage his more fancied teammate. Was the latter not trying, is the coach missing something?

    The reserves allow supporters to make their own assessments on the development of players hoping to make the senior team, without having to venture out to a suburban oval, to see them in another competition, and in another team’s jersey.

    Often the coach is blind to the attributes of some players or they simply don’t fit into his plans. Or, the environment of a club may adversely affect a player’s performance. Then it’s time for them to move on.

    As in the NRL, there has been an over-emphasis on underage recruits who are not yet ready for senior football.

    Recently we have seen a resurgence of older players, or ones who had previously missed out on being drafted. A reserves competition will require a larger squad and provide more opportunities for unappreciated players, who may prove to be champions, to find a new home.

    Somehow I think the AFL will ignore calls for the re-establishment of the reserves. It will mention the costs involved in extending squads, providing additional flights and accommodation, and the hosting of the extra games. But since when has money been a problem for the AFL?

    The real reason is that being the host of an ultra-professional competition, it doesn’t want to show the messy business of player development.

    Game day, or night, is devoted to the elite event. The advertisers want their brands linked to that.

    Curtain raisers involving players who are past it, on a developmental curve, or showing an unseemly desperation to prove their worth, just don’t belong.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • April 12th 2012 @ 7:30am
      ManInBlack said | April 12th 2012 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      I’m torn on this. The old VFA has been messed up so much that were the AFL to return to reserves – then the old VFA (remain the VFL??) might be beyond repair. And that’d be a tragedy given the VFA dates back to the 1870s.

      The ability to judge guys like Clifton, J.Pod and Barlow as they compete against AFL listed players surely helped in their mature age drafting.

      In Vic, the capacity to structure up something akin to the NEAFL might be required if the ressies returned. A two conference structure with the 10 Vic AFL reserves sides spread over to give the ‘VFA’ sides fair opportunity. Also, I love that Ballarat and Bendigo are both represented in the current VFL and would love a Gippsland squad in there too.

      • Roar Guru

        April 12th 2012 @ 8:23am
        The Cattery said | April 12th 2012 @ 8:23am | ! Report

        Mirrors my view on this.

        I too have fond memories of watching the reserves, but not sure it’s feasible these days. The major stadiums already have too many games played on them per week, and these days teams are doing their onfield warm ups up to an hour before the game.

        I believe the structure of the VFL will sort itself out, rich clubs will have their own teams, others will continue partnering with a VFA side, and I agree it’s great having Ballarat and Bendigo in there.

        • Roar Guru

          April 12th 2012 @ 8:57am
          Andrew Sutherland said | April 12th 2012 @ 8:57am | ! Report


          These pre game warm ups have to end! The thrill of seeing teams run out on to the ground is lessened when you’ve seen them wander out in their singlets beforehand. Let them do their stretching indoors and if they do a hammy during the game…. they’ve got hyperbaric chambers haven’t they?

          • Roar Guru

            April 12th 2012 @ 10:14am
            AndyRoo said | April 12th 2012 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            But seeing the players warm up and some seldom used reserve falling over or copping a ball to the head is the reward for showing up early.
            Take that incentive away and everyone will try to arrive 5 minutes before kick/bounce off.

            It would lead to ABSOLUTE CHAOS at the gates which would spill into the streets leading to week long riots and looting causing the collapse of the Australian economy and society.

            I don’t think you have thought that through.

          • Roar Guru

            April 12th 2012 @ 10:29am
            The Cattery said | April 12th 2012 @ 10:29am | ! Report

            there is some truth in that – blame Terry Wallace who introduced it back in 97 or 98 after talking to some NFL coaches (where he also originally got the germ of an idea for the ultra flood that he put into practice in the second last game of 2000, when the dogs inflicted the bombers’ only defeat that season).

    • April 12th 2012 @ 8:12am
      Norm said | April 12th 2012 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      I agree with this article 100%. in my youth it was gr8 to get to the footy early & watch the reserves play, often with top players coming back from injury or up-&-coming youngsters. By the time they it into the seniors we knew them.

    • Roar Guru

      April 12th 2012 @ 8:34am
      Redb said | April 12th 2012 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      Geelong and Collingwood already have their VFL team as part of their stable and training regime. Other clubs like Essendon have expressed an interest in doing the same. This is nothing new.

      The second tier needs to remain at state level though as the logistics and costs make it impractical in a National Comp.

      • April 12th 2012 @ 10:41am
        Ian Whitchurch said | April 12th 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report


        The NEAFL involves the ACT, Brisbane, Sydney and Darwin, with clubs mostly playing within their own conference.

        It is the work of a moment to add the SA, WA and Victorian divisions to it.

        • Roar Guru

          April 12th 2012 @ 3:22pm
          Lachlan said | April 12th 2012 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

          NEAFL NORTH: 1 Darwin/Alice Springs, 4 Gold Coast and 5 Brisbane
          NEAFL EAST: 5 ACT (if you include Queanbeyan), 4 Sydney

    • Roar Guru

      April 12th 2012 @ 8:43am
      Andrew Sutherland said | April 12th 2012 @ 8:43am | ! Report


      If the reserves were re established it would be wonderful to see the VFA return (have never liked the use of the AFL’s old name) as a quality competition. When the VFL came in many excellent players were ‘lost’ to the suburban comps.

      • Roar Guru

        April 12th 2012 @ 10:31am
        The Cattery said | April 12th 2012 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        I too have always felt a bit uncomfortable about the VFA name being replaced by the VFL name (which had actually become the AFL).

        It’s a bit like the old VFL boys saying to the VFA: nah, nah, nah, nah, it took us 100 years, but we finally got yers!!

        • April 12th 2012 @ 10:41am
          Ian Whitchurch said | April 12th 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report


          Pretty much.

          • Roar Guru

            April 12th 2012 @ 11:09am
            The Cattery said | April 12th 2012 @ 11:09am | ! Report

            I could also add that it’s a slap in the face to really old and famous clubs like Williamstown and Port, and yes, I’m an old Seagulls fan.

            I’ve lived the joy and delight of having a local team to support, being able to wander to the ground in 10 minutes on a Sunday arvo, join up with mates, have a beer and pie and stand on the outer and watch a game of footy.

            Times were so simple – you didn’t care about economic viability, future directions of the game, competition from other sports, etc, etc, it all meant diddly squat to you, for a few hours, standing with a few thousand supporters, nothing else really mattered.

            That’s what going to the footy is about.

            Times change of course, and I’ve always been willing to change with the times, but it’s good very now and then to remember what it’s really all about, that intangible quality that is very personal, yet is part of something much bigger than yourself.

            In short, the AFL should do the right thing, recall the manner in which the VFL was born, commemmerate what came before them – and change the name of the comp back to the VFA.

        • Roar Guru

          April 12th 2012 @ 1:34pm
          The_Wookie said | April 12th 2012 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          I think that victory dance would have been done in march last year when the assets and administration of the VFL passed lock, stock and barrell into the AFLs hands. It is now a wholly owned AFL subsidary along with AFL NSW/ACT, AFL Queensland and AFL NT. With the VFL deciding that it wants an end to the cut and paste nature of the VFL until 2014, the following options open up after that:

          Heres what could happen in 2015 though:
          – AFL reserves teams withdrawn from the NEAFL and VFL
          – new reserves league formed of AFL reserves teams on eastern seaboard
          – Remaining VFL teams integrated into the NEAFL structure (say ‘Eastern Football League” ) as the Victorian Division.

          Travel up and down the eastern seaboard is stupidly cheap compared to traveling to Adelaide and Perth, even on low budget carriers.

          Consider: the SANFL refuses to entertain reserve sides for its AFL teams, and the WAFL may be trying some weird hybrid version where the AFL teams have to pay WAFL teams to play teams who have the bye. These things combined with the the SANFL and WAFL resistance to allowing AFL meddling in their states could see an interesting malaise of reserve formations in coming years.

          • Roar Guru

            April 12th 2012 @ 3:33pm
            Lachlan said | April 12th 2012 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

            It seems pointless to have a reserves league not including the 2 western australian and south australian teams.

            Maybe there will then be 3 major leagues, all adopting to the NEAFL structure. VFL and TSL is one league split into two conferences and WAFL and SANFL combinde into to conferences.

            in my view if the AFL isn’t prepared to make a complete reserves league then scrap it.

            • Roar Guru

              April 12th 2012 @ 4:17pm
              The_Wookie said | April 12th 2012 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

              The WAFL and SANFL will never give up their independence from the AFL. Never. The SANFL are about to sell off property worth more than 200 million that will bankroll the league in SA for decades to come. The WAFL make a small mint off their AFL teams, and are also quite profitable.

    • April 12th 2012 @ 9:46am
      Maximus said | April 12th 2012 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      Love to see it but too many issues, costs (AFL would pay but only if it gets on TV), impact on suburban footy in Vic and local comps in SA and WA. On the other hand the northern clubs are disadvantaged under the current setup and it appears the richer clubs who can afford reserves are getting richer… ,widening the disparity…

      • Roar Guru

        April 12th 2012 @ 10:32am
        The Cattery said | April 12th 2012 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        There’s no doubt that there appears to be a link between wealth, having your own reserves and onfield success, that has emerged in recent years, to such an extent that the Eagles are now agitating with the WAFL to run their own reserves team.

    • April 12th 2012 @ 11:26am
      John Hunt said | April 12th 2012 @ 11:26am | ! Report

      I think you will find that Adelaide, Port, Eagles and Dockers want to have their own teams in their respective state competitions rather than a ressie comp.

      But maybe the Victorian teams should consider forming their own reserves comp playing out of suburban venues. Already many AFL matches have games on before for community teams (Rio Tinto Cup) which is a better use of the MCG Etihad AAMI etc than a reserves game as it gives those who may never get to the G a chance to play on it.

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