Dave Nadel’s Dream Response

I prefer the idea of the existing comp divided into two geographical conferences. I have been arguing this for a while although the model I argued was based on sixteen teams which would have allowed for 22 rounds with each team playing members of their own conference twice and the other conference once. Twenty teams make it more difficult since we can’t really have 28 rounds. However, following John’s idea of adding Tassie and Northern Territory (although I personally think Canberra would be admitted before NT), here are my two divisions. Both the continent and the city of Melbourne are divided East and West.

Eastern Conference


Gold Coast


Western Sydney






St Kilda

Western Conference

West Coast



Port Adelaide

Northern Territory


Western Bulldogs


North Melbourne


The idea is still to have each team play their own conference twice and the other conference once. Each Conference would then play a final four over three weeks based on the Page McIntyre system as used in the VFL between 1931 and 1971. The Grand Final would be between the two Conference winners.

This is preferable to a promotion and relegation systen because, as others have pointed out, otherwise teams relegated from the first division would lose their best players. You could not imagine Ablett, Selwood, Judd, Pendlebury and the Riewoldts playing in Division 2 for any length of time. Nor could one really imagine the major stadiums being used exclusively for lower division football, while ovals in Ballarat or mount Gambier hosted first division games.

The salary cap must be kept. Not only has it created a far more equal competition in which every team apart from Western Bulldogs and Fremantle has played in Grand Final in the last fifteen years (and they have both played in Prelims) but it has also protected the clubs from themselves. Almost every one of the old VFL clubs has had a club President or Committee that has got the club into major financial difficulties trying to buy a Premiership during the seventies and eighties. There is an argument that Frank Bibby’s borrowings as President in the late seventies pushed Fitzroy to a point where it couldn’t reverse its debts. Ranald Macdonald’s New Magpies would probably have done the same thing to Collingwood were it not for Collingwood’s large supporter base.

On the other hand I would love to see the end of the draft. Kids should be able to play with their local club which they have probably supported all their lives. The VFL’s version of zoning, which was used from 1915 to 1983 (and in a diluted version until 1991), was in restraint of trade and unfair to the players and Justice Crockett was right to overthrow it in the Foschini case. But it wouldn’t be hard to create a fairer zoning system.

At the end of each season all 18 clubs are asked to name up to twelve players either from their zone or father/son nominations. These players are offered recruitment on the list or as rookies. If they refuse they go into a subsequent draft (which means they can’t reject their local team because they have done an under the counter deal with a richer club) Mature age players, delisted players and players not nominated by their zoned club are also in this draft and clubs who feel that they cannot meet all their needs from their zone have access to this draft.

I personally think the localism of our game is what allows it to survive in the era of globalisation. Shared grounds and a nationwide draft undermine one of our greatest strengths. Anyway that’s my ten cents.


  1. Alovesupreme says

    I think this is certainly the way to go. For reasons you have stated, it’s decidedly better than divisions with promotion/relegation.

    Dividing Victoria precisely might see Melbourne and Carlton swap frpm your putative divisions. Do we think of MFC as the CBD, or the MCG or their current or previous headquarters (AAMI Stadium, Junction Oval respectively?

    I also agree with you that the salary cap is essential and for both the reasons you offer – protecting the Clubs from themselves and forcing a measure of equality onto the competition.

    I’m undecided about the draft/zoning, but I think it’s generous of a Collingwood supporter to wish to see it revived. I contend that the introduction of country zoning ( was it late 60s?) shafted Collingwood, immensely advantaged Hawthorn and Carlton, and gave some benefit to North Melbourne, Fitzroy, Richmond and Essendon.. It was unhelpful to Geelong and South Melbourne, and the possible benefit to Footscray, Melbourne and St. Kilda was squandered by their deficiencies of administration/finance.

  2. Dave Nadel says

    I am taking Melbourne from the CBD – mostly because I want to preserve two Collingwood/Carlton clashes per season.

    While I would like to keep the Melbourne zones that existed before 1983 (with some adjustment for the absence of South Melbourne and Fitzroy) I would want total revision of the country Victorian zones. The original zones were supposed to be on a three years trial with a rotation of zones after three years. When the three years ended, the big winners, Carlton, Essendon, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Melbourne and Footscray voted to make the temporary zones permanent.

    Fitzroy was not a winner. They got a great zone (the Hampden League) but it was Geelong’s zone. Having spent seven years in Warrnambool I can tell you that the majority of people there barrack for the Cats, as is the case although way back along the Princess Highway to Geelong. What this meant was that there were players like Paul Couch who placed all sorts of hurdles in the way of a move to Fitzroy that they did not subsequently place against a move to Geelong.

  3. Dave Nadel says

    “although” should read “all the”

  4. Alovesupreme says

    Fair point, Dave, about the barriers that other clubs (not just Geelong) placed in the way of Lions’ recruitment. Adrian Gleeson was the poster boy, imho, at least the way I heard it.

    Hawthorn’s special benefit was that the players from Mornington Peninsula (Leigh Matthews, Dermott Brereton) and West Gippsland (Michael Tuck, even Peter Knights – who taxied to Glenferrie in his early seasons) did not have to re-locate,whereas those from the better country zones – those of North, Essendon, Footscray, Carlton and Melbourne, couldn’t really commute to training.

    Fitzroy also were significant beneficiaries of the extension of suburban zoning. Doncaster-Templestowe yielded Paul Roos, Gary Pert, Richard Osborne, and if they hadn’t been dudded in a trade, they would have got Terry Wallace.
    The outer suburban zoning is of course a whole other can of worms.

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