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The Perpetual Vic-Bias?

Everyone just settle down… By the title alone you have likely been split into two generic statements.

For those who reside outside of Victoria, its “You’re damn right there’s a bloody Victorian Bias. Those grubs get gifted everything by the ‘V’FL”.

Or

“There is no Bias. We have the majority of teams in our state. The best stadiums in the country. The greatest media focus is in Victoria. AFL headquarters is located here. Where else would you call the heartland of the game?”

Now this writer is a Victorian by birth, family history, club supported and firm belief that Melbourne is the centre of the sporting universe. You only need to mention another Australian city/state and I will happily tell you why Victoria/Melbourne is the greatest place on earth. Far be it form me to be able to sit here and say I understand the plight of anyone across a border. I mean, I can generally attend 2-3 AFL games a week, if I like.

But still, there is a question to be asked. Is the AFL overly Victorian centric, to the point where it is becoming an issue for the competition?

To be fair, the AFL is based in Victoria as it has morphed form the once powerful VFL into the national competition we know today. It likely has its greatest investment in Victoria. The highest number of participants, clubs and members all come from Victoria. They own their own stadium in Victoria. They have a strong relationship with the country’s largest stadium, which hosts the biggest single-day sporting event in Australia. The state has finally recognised its significance, with a public holiday dedicated to it.

However… it must be said that a quick look around reveals that the AFL can sometimes be a little demanding of its interstate clubs even a bit demeaning at times.

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A fair chunk of this narrative can be attributed to being driven by the media. Its was never more prevalent than last years Grand Final when West Australian media bleated about having to face Collingwood at the MCG in the Grand Final, even though they finished above them on the ladder and bested them in the first week of finals. Despite those two key criteria, which would likely have seen the Eagles host the Magpies at their newly built home stadium in almost every other major sport in the world, they were still forced to fly across the Nullarbor and compete for football’s greatest prize on their enemies’ home territory.

Player recognition is another key factor. Too often the media will reminisce about the feats of players like Nick Riewoldt and forget the likes of someone like Matthew Pavlich who has a resumé that more than stacks up against his.

Pavlich

Club B&F’s - 6 x (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011)

Games & Goals - 353 Games - 700 Goals

AA Honours - 6 x (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)

Captaincy Reign - 2007-2015 (189 games)

Finals Record - 15 (6W – 9L)

Riewoldt

Club B&F’s - 6 x (2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2014)

Games & Goals - 336 Games - 718 Goals

AA Honours - 5 x (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2014)

Captaincy Reign - 2005, 2007-2016 (220 Games)

Finals Record - 16 (7W – 9L)

 

Although he is absolutely the equal of Riewoldt, Pavlich is not held anywhere near in the same regard by Victorian media pundits. Easily Fremantle’s Greatest player (Nathan Fyfe might have something to say about this before he is done) and yet he is constantly left out of the conversation of the games uber elite from the 2000’s. Pavlich isn’t the only one to suffer this fate. Players such as Luke Power, Ryan O’Keeffe, Warren Tredrea, Mark Ricciuto, Peter Burgoyne and the absolutely legendary Adam Goodes are some more individuals that always seem to make way for Victorian counterparts when the media begin to recall the greats of yesteryear.  I would go into more depth about more players but there is only so many words I am allowed to write for an article. A comparison of Mark Ricciuto and James Hird would be interesting…

Another example of this bias, I believe, can be found in fixturing. I will state that it is extremely hard to do an appropriate fixture when you consider the location of teams, weighting of previous years results and finally account for the annual “Blockbusters” or marquee games the AFL feels obliged to play every year. Strangely enough, how many of these games involve interstate teams?

Opening game of the season? No.      

ANZAC Day? No.                  

ANZAC Day Eve? No.

Easter Monday? No.                          

Queen’s Birthday? No.                       

Dreamtime? No.

Where are all the interstate blockbusters? I mean outside of the “Showdown”, “Derby”, “Q-Clash” and whatever you call the Sydney one (is it still “The Battle of the Bridge”?). Sure, the AFL reinstated the Easter Thursday clash in Brisbane this year and despite the scoreboard, it should be classed as a raging success. The game was the first sell-out in Brisbane for a decade and that’s not just because the lions started their season well, or because they were playing Collingwood.

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The addition of the game in WA, to Good Friday this year, was a solid step in the right direction. This writer firmly believes in making more major public holidays double-headers. Which opens up the prospect of developing some new marquee match-ups in some states that are not Victoria.

Another recent example is the scheduling of the Showdown. So often referred to as one of the great rivalries in the game. Akin to Collingwood vs Essendon on ANZAC Day and Geelong vs Hawthorn on Easter Monday. Yet, every year the AFL doesn’t give it the respect it deserves. A national broadcast on free-to-air tv. The AFL continually seems to jump at shadows (or maybe to the tv networks demands) and cowers away from displaying the full variety of our great game to the whole nation.

The Derby is another interesting case. Who, from outside WA, remembers the last time they watched a derby? Or was excited to watch one from the build-up during the week? Anyone? Outside of people from WA, I assume not. They always seem to be on a Sunday night or Saturday Evening these days. I don’t know if this a request of the WA clubs, fans or fox footy, but c’mon, surely such a game that highlights the best of the west should have prime placement on the nation’s screens.

These matches don’t need to be shown nationally every time, but at least once every two years. Just to remind the rest of the nation that they have some bloody good stadiums over there and four very powerful clubs.

There are also the narratives surrounding certain teams. The Adelaide Crows and Taylor Walker have been torn to shreds by the Fox Footy team and some key media personalities. Huge statements about Adelaide’s desire to play and Walkers ability to captain the side, have been made by several identities to say that the Crows are not good enough. Yet they sit 4th on the ladder after defeating a depleted Richmond. The solid win has the Crows turning towards the finals at 8-5 with a healthy percentage. They have already pushed the Cats and Eagles in tough encounters and beaten the Giants. So why is so much negativity surrounding them? They play the Cats, Eagles and Pies on the run home, as well as another classic showdown, which will likely have big finals implications. If Adelaide makes the top four, they will have earnt every bit of it, and should be praised for the effort, not have their season talked about as a failure.

It will be interesting to see how the AFL considers its fixtures moving forward. With five interstate teams currently in the top-eight and Fremantle only sitting outside on percentage. There is a very real chance the MCG may only host 2 finals in the entire final series (1 being the Grand Final). Back in the good old days (as some would say) the lowest ranked interstate team would be forced to move their home final to the MCG. Thankfully the AFL has changed that dreaded system, now allowing for an average of finals at the ground over an eight-year span to satisfy their agreement with the MCC. But with Geelong sitting 2 games on top of the ladder, and a plethora of interstate teams below them. Will the AFL force the Cats to play their home finals at the ‘G to save face on the Victorian front? Would that be considered fair, or akin to the old system that forced the Brisbane Lions to play their home preliminary final at the MCG in 2004?

Considering the Cats currently play home games at the MCG, it will likely be considered a reasonable expectation.

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