AFL Round 21 – Brisbane v GWS Giants: Talent tracking

For one who played the game in such an uncompromising, straightforward manner as Vossy, it has always been intriguing to witness first hand in his home city the wild variety of opinions about his coaching prowess. Of course this first game after his unexpected dethroning during the week inevitably gave rise to these assessments being re-hashed and in some instances re-cast, as most pundits looked favourably upon his 2013 record with a middling list, finally escaping from the Fev horrors of 2010. I actually think Voss got off lightly during that annus horribilis less for the misguided recruiting than a vast overestimation of his midfield charges, with Black clearly the only elite performer, despite the hoopla that’s surrounded Rich’s boom left foot (but who never moves to his right side) and to a lesser extent Rockcliff. It was as if he could never let go of the legacy of his immense part in the Fab Four midfield through the golden years.

Nonetheless, there was a palpable sympathy vote for M.Voss amongst the small but good spirited crowd on a balmy late winter’s eve at the Gabba. If nothing else, he was always seen as a local, having played as a junior from his late primary school days, but the franchise culture that is contemporary AFL articulated in the management speak of the Lions chairman during the week appeared to put little store in this quaint connection. Funnily enough, I was recounting this at a function in the member’s stand where a number of us across the local junior AFL scene were receiving volunteer recognition awards. Enjoying catching up with some familiar faces from my own playing days, I ended up chatting to the president of arguably Brisbane’s strongest junior and senior club where we lamented the fact that not one of the Brisbane starting 22 this night played their junior footy in Brisbane. We trawled over familiar material commonly discussed amongst local junior coaches that AFL recruiters remain obsessed with plucking monster athletes from other sports over the junior footy star. And of course the old hoary chestnut that Queensland is still a “pioneering” footy wilderness. But we also arrived at the conclusion that the AFL has got the game exactly where it wants it with huge resources pumped into an enormous junior participation rate feeding up enough players to fill the 18 lists accompanied by a general disdain for all footy in-between. I’d had my senses up after re-stocking the ‘Talent Tracker’ data set I’d worked on with the AFL over recent years, plotting the key developmental geographical location (between ages 11-14) of every AFL player since 1997, part of which was showing a fair sprinkling of Riverina/Murray boys coming onto the GWS list and again speculated that those sort of “growing up together bonds” have to help any team, especially a new one trying to find its way like GWS.

Tonight, the GWS performance was consistent with a young list limping its way to the end of a long season and turning the ball over too steadily to be competitive. But the sympathy for a club continuing to receive so many draft and salary cap concessions runs pretty thin, as everyone waits for the cream crop to deliver the wins that such a collective pool of talent will surely bring. It’s akin to watching the best cricketer in your junior high school years picked for the firsts and making a few golden ducks but knowing you won’t be playing with him again. I’m pretty sure this was Vossy’s experience growing up as a young footballer, as tales abound of the bags he kicked across Brisbane suburban grounds. As us rapidly middle-ageing has-been footy volunteers continued to chew the fat in the members, we all thought it’d be nice if even just a handful of the same talent dominating at Morningside, Mt Gravatt, Sherwood and Aspley might one day captain their own home team, and maybe even coach them. Misty nostalgic thinking perhaps, but then that’s what’s always fuelled the passion for our great game.


BRISBANE   5.5       12.7     16.12   18.15 (123)

GWS               1.1       3.2       4.4       9.9 (63)



Brisbane Lions: Mayes 4, Staker 3, Green 3, Merrett 2, Rich 2, Zorko 2, McGrath, Hanley.

GWS: Cameron 2, Giles, Whitfield, Whiley, Coniglio, Greene, Scully, Williams.



Brisbane Lions: Black, Leuenberger, Mayes, Rich, Adcock, Rockliff.

GWS: Coniglio, Treloar, Greene, Whitfield.


Umpires: Donlon, Ryan, Mitchell.


Official Crowd: 13,855 at the Gabba.


Our votes:  3 Black (BL); 2 Mayes (BL); 1 Coniglio (GWS)



  1. Doesn’t Zorko count? Gold Coast isn’t too far away.

    Fair point though. For all the great work the junior clubs do there is little representation at the pointy end.

  2. Boston Rocket says

    Couldn’t agree more about AFL support for elite programs at expense of grass-roots.

    The reorganization of the NEAFL that will see only 2 clubs in Brisbane and 1 club on the Gold Coast is all about supporting the elite – a la the Lions and Suns 2nds.

    The QAFL will come back and be better for it – without the AFL 2nds teams.

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