SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT OUR COMPETITION...
Whilst lauding the exploits of our Men’s 1st XVIII and their effort against the ex-AFL star studded University Blues last week, I feel it opportune on the back of a win to air my views about the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
Despite our massive upset result it is indisputable that the VAFA’s current policies have contrived to create a two-tiered competition in its Men’s Premier ‘A’ Section, with the current Player Points System (more can be read about the Player Points System after this message) and current recruiting practices of a number of VAFA clubs. These policies and procedures have also put Premier ‘A’ Section well out of the reach of many of the club’s in lower sections. After six rounds 60% of Premier ‘A’ Section matches have been won by the team with the higher player points. Hats off to Old Brighton and SKOBs who consistently have the lowest player points each week and sit on top of the ladder on the back of sustained strong football programs and performances at their respective schools.
When you delve deeper, you can see the ridiculousness and inconsistencies of the Player Points System itself. But before I present these inconsistencies to you, I feel it opportune to provide a historical narration to provide context to my thoughts on this matter. The VAFA – the Victorian Amateur Football Association – was formed on the basis that players would receive no payments or inducements to be part of it. It was all about players 100% playing for the love of the game. It so tightly protected this premise for decades by implementing laws that prohibited players who had received payment to play football from entering the competition at all. To illustrate this point, past player David Temple recently recounted the following story regarding his ex-North Melbourne Cricket Club teammate Alan Doble.
Alan Doble was a Champion of both the Ormond cricket and football clubs. He joined Ormond Football Club in the under 19s in 1961, was Club Captain in 1964 and represented Victoria in VAFA in 1963 and 1964. He played 43 games in total. In 1964 he also played cricket for Victoria and the VAFA refused to reinstate him as an amateur for taking out of pocket expenses ($186) while representing the state at cricket. His football playing career ended then and there, though he later coached Ormond’s under 17 and Under 19 teams.
In the past twenty years the rules around VAFA eligibility have understandably relaxed from Alan’s day, but I argue the pendulum has swung way too far, and that the competition’s notion that its points system must marry that of other metropolitan and regional competitions – where players are paid – is ludicrous. The VAFA is unique, and its guidelines regarding player status and eligibility should always be too. If the VAFA wants to compete with other suburban and metropolitan competitions, it should drop the ‘A’ for ‘Amateur’, become the VFA and allow its clubs to pay players to the salary cap and have the same PPS restrictions in place as the other competitions.
Presently the competition is ‘a little bit pregnant’, pretending it is amateur but wantingly encouraging and allowing an abundance of professional players to play at a handful of clubs who choose to go down this path in the pursuit of on-field success. Some around the traps are now even referring to the competition as the VAFA – the Vaguely Amateur Football Association.
Why doesn’t the VAFA settle on becoming the best Amateur football competition in the state, and throw all its energies into achieving such end? If that was the case, all its strategies, rules, guidelines, policies and procedures would be framed around what the best Amateur Football competition looks like, rather than worrying about other competitions which are totally different in nature.
In a nutshell, the higher the competition’s Player Points System is, the less like an amateur competition the VAFA is, and the greater the scope for clubs to flout the laws around amateur status is. Perhaps it is also time to review the concept of providing employment opportunities for players as an acceptable recruitment process as it is a clear inducement to play, and these practices often raise more questions than answers across the VAFA community and beyond. We are lobbying to have the Player Points System reviewed and reduced significantly by the VAFA, but whether or not they have any genuine appetite for it remains to be seen.
Back to the inconsistencies regarding the points…
When we played another club earlier this year, we played a terrific young lad from Camberwell High School – Ryan Valentine, who is one year out of school and listed with NAB Under 19 team Oakleigh Chargers. He was worth four player points. In our opposition there were FIVE former AFL players running around. Ryan Valentine was worth one point less than two experienced ex-AFL footballers – an experienced AFL 100 game+ premiership player and a less than 50 game AFL player. He was worth the SAME points as another 100 game AFL player and another former AFL player. He was worth one MORE point than another former player who had been playing at the particular club for some time. What the?
Players such as Ryan Valentine – a reminder, a kid straight out of Camberwell High who is listed with a NAB Under 19 team, and who hasn’t received a dollar from playing football – is worth four player points; meanwhile, another VAFA club had at least 7 ex-AFL players running around for them on the weekend. There were also a number of additional ex AFL players on their list who weren’t selected for whatever reason. What the heck is going on?
We are also lobbying to see true amateur players get rewarded with Big V state team selection, rather than the seemingly automatic selection of professional players straight out of the AFL, often with no genuine allegiance to their particular club, by proposing that players must have played 50 games of VAFA football before being eligible for Big V state selection.
This change might distract head office’s attention from the instant sugar hit of talent straight out of the AFL, and onto their core constituents – players who have committed to the VAFA competition for all the right reasons, for season after season, and who are truly playing for ‘the love of the game’.
The sooner the VAFA develops a Player Points System that is sympathetic to the unique circumstances of an amateur competition, the better. In summary, I encourage the VAFA to work out who – and what – it is.
These are thoughts that I, and many others, have had for a number of years. They are also thoughts that have been shared with key VAFA office bearers, to limited effect. I concede that our club in the past has attracted ex-AFL players by actively seeking employment opportunities, and I also understand that I can also be accused of writing a narrative to suit our own circumstances, but I assure you my motivations are centred around the creation of a sustainable and balanced competition for all VAFA clubs, and where the competition also retains and reaffirms its unique positioning within the football landscape by highlighting and celebrating its point of difference. I just thought it opportune to share my thoughts with you on these matters. Matters that, to me, go right to the heart of our competition.
Irrespective of your view being different or similar, I would love to hear from you.
President, Old Scotch Football Club
AFL Victoria Player Points System
The AFL Victoria introduced the Player Points System in 2016 for all Victorian metropolitan and country leagues. Its purpose was to help support the Salary Cap System to provide greater competitive balance and reduce the growing player salary costs for clubs in semi-professional competitions. The Victorian Amateur Football Association adopted the AFL Victoria Player Points System in 2016. The stated objectives of the policy are:
- support equalization of community football Competitions
- ensure teams fielded in the Competitions are strong and as equally matched as possible
- provide the best opportunities for players to develop and display their skills
- provide opportunities to compete at a community level within an orderly and fair system
- enable team spirit and public support
- encourage community and corporate sponsorships of Community Clubs
- reduce the inflationary nature of player payments to assist clubs survive financially and reduce financial burden/stress on Clubs
- promote player loyalty and junior development
The Player Points System allocates points for each player determined by where they previously played. The majority of players in the VAFA are allocated 1 points as home grown players, so for example any former Scotch College student who attended the college for 2 or more years is allocated 1 point. Any player just out of the AFL system is allocated 6 points and this is reduced each subsequent year they play at the club. The number of points allocated reduces as the level of competition a player comes from goes down, e.g players from state competitions such as VFL are allocated 5 points and so on.
The total player points a club can have for any one match in VAFA Premier ‘A’ Section is 45 points. This maximum varies slightly throughout the VAFA sections and also various other Victorian competitions. We currently average around 35 points each weekend. Some Premier ‘A’ Section clubs come very close to the 45 points ceiling most weekends. The club we played on the weekend was at 44 points. For more detailed information about the AFL Victoria Player Points System you can go to the link
Since COVID-19 hit during the 2020 year, the salary cap for metropolitan competitions has been halved to $100,000 per club for each season. As a by-product it appears this has helped increase the number of player transfers from those competitions into VAFA. Footballers in those competitions can see greater value in career/employment opportunities at some VAFA clubs versus the reduced income received from playing.