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AFL News: Fury over junior league's 'bulls--t' all-team finals series, Daisy-less Dees to defend AFLW crown

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1st September, 2023

Former Collingwood premiership hero Mick McGuane has lashed out at a local Victorian junior football league’s decision to change its finals format to allow all teams to participate.

The South Metro Junior Football League has been at the centre of controversy since it was revealed by the Herald Sun the league’s Under 14 Division 1 competition expanded its finals series to all ten teams, with the change only announced in July.

Farcically, it meant finals were scheduled to be played on evenings mid-week rather than on weekends, meaning the ladder-leading East Brighton Vampires, who had won all 10 games for the season with a percentage of 368.78, needed to play their first final on Tuesday night.

According to the report, the team was then forced to forfeit that final due to a Brighton Grammar school camp leaving most of its players unavailable.

McGuane, a member of Collingwood’s 1990 premiership team and two-time Magpies best and fairest winner, has been among the more vocal critics, describing the change as ‘bulls–t’.

“Stop the rot. Stop peddling out bulls–t as to why decisions are made of this nature,” McGuane wrote.

“Give the kids a chance to become resilient and understand what winning and losing is all about.”


SMJFL CEO Matthew Brown, who authorised the change, defended the league’s decision on 3AW’s Mornings with Neil Mitchell on Thursday.

“About a month ago we resolved that based on the results that had come through the season, we split the league further into Division 1, Division 1 reserve, Division 2, Division 2 reserve… with five teams playing four different finals series each,” Brown said.

“What we’ve done is we’ve revised and modified the finals format to accommodate all five of those teams [6-10] on the ladder into their own finals series.

“The feedback we have had has been really positive. The kids have been playing night finals over the past week or so and now they’ll progress through to the qualifying and Grand Finals.”

In responding to the player unavailability issue that affected the Vampires, Brown said clubs were given registration exemptions to allow them to fill teams with players from other levels and age groups.

“We provided a number of options to the team around player exemptions from other sides to play up,” Brown said.


“The Vampires are probably one of South Metro’s largest clubs and they’ve got a huge roster from which they can draw.”

Daisy-less Dees prepared to defend AFLW title

Melbourne coach Mick Stinear expects his AFLW premiers to make a smooth transition to life after Daisy Pearce in Friday night’s season opener against Collingwood.

All eyes are on the Demons, who are hot favourites to defend their title despite losing their decorated former captain to retirement after last year’s breakthrough flag.

“Daisy’s left the place in great shape,” Stinear said.

“She created space for others to step up and gave them the skills to do so. 

“The group’s just excited to show her what we can do and what we’ve learnt, and show her that the program will continue to move forward.”


Two-time All-Australian Kate Hore has taken the reins as Melbourne captain after claiming best-and-fairest honours last season.

“Kate’s someone the group really looks up to and she inspires them with the way she prepares and consistently executes,” Stinear said.

“She has a genuine care and connection for those around her and she’s been that consistent across her time at the club, so I’m not expecting that to change.

“She’s got stronger and quicker over the off-season and I’m confident her footy will go to another level as well.”

Tayla Harris of the Demons celebrates kicking a goal during the AFLW Grand Final.

Tayla Harris of the Demons celebrates kicking a goal during the AFLW Grand Final. (Photo by Matt Roberts/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

In the annual pre-season poll of AFLW club captains, all bar three rival leaders tipped Melbourne to play off in another grand final.

There is huge expectation on the Demons to go back-to-back but Stinear sees the new campaign as a clean slate.


“It is good reinforcement but unfortunately it doesn’t give you any points in the home-and-away season,” Stinear said.

“Our group’s really determined to take some of the learnings from last year and to suit up and get ready to do battle again.

“I’m sure those captains won’t be showing us any mercy, so we’ll make sure we’re ready.”

Collingwood reached the semi-finals last season and have since been strengthened by the return of captain Brianna Davey and Britt Bonnici.

Both are back after long lay-offs with knee injuries.

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“They’ll be much stronger through the midfield with Bri and Britt coming back through there,” Stinear said.

“They don’t rely on anyone in particular up forward, so we’re going to have to be on our game there.

“We’re expecting a great battle and we’d like to think we match up pretty well.”

Melbourne vice-captain Tyla Hanks will reach the 50-game milestone in the season opener at Ikon Park.


‘Bit like Dumb and Dumber’: Ratten steps away from Kangaroos, won’t be senior coach again

Brett Ratten has thanked North Melbourne for allowing him to “say goodbye” to senior coaching after announcing he will be departing the AFL club.


Ratten was unceremoniously axed as St Kilda coach in October, 2022 just months after signing a contract extension.

The 52-year-old joined North Melbourne as a part-time assistant later that year and was unexpectedly thrust into the head coach’s role in May when Alastair Clarkson took extended leave to focus on his mental and physical health.

Although Ratten wasn’t able to lead North to victory in his 10 games in charge, he came close against Sydney (three points), Essendon (six), St Kilda (eight) and West Coast (five points).

Clarkson returned for the last four games of the season with North Melbourne’s final-round win over Gold Coast ensuring they avoided a third straight wooden spoon.

Ratten’s stint at the helm of North Melbourne took his career coaching tally to 198 games across stints at Carlton, St Kilda and the Kangaroos.

The veteran coach isn’t sure what is next on the agenda for him, but he’s open to something new.

“When I accepted the role at North Melbourne, my plan was to come in and help the club in any way I could for 12 months,” Ratten said in a statement on Friday.


“While the role ended up different to the one I initially took on, I’ve loved my time here.

“Stepping in as interim coach gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to senior coaching, which is something I’m grateful for.

“In terms of what the future looks like, I’m not sure yet. I love the game and I’m certainly open to new opportunities.”

After finishing his stint as interim coach of North Melbourne with a five-point loss to West Coast in round 20, Ratten doubted whether he would ever get the chance to be a senior AFL coach again.

“I did say it felt a bit like the Dumb and Dumber scene where he looks at the good looking girl and says, ‘I’m a chance – one in a million’,” Ratten said.

“That’s what it feels like going forward. It would be very surprising. And I’ve really got not that much ambition to be a senior coach.

“I’m on 198 and Jonny Bairstow has just ripped the bails off and I’m about that far short.”