In The Beginning Of The Royboy Bail-Out Was The End Of The Word Love.

I remember everything and that is unforgivable when you love the Fitzroy Football Club with every molecule and gum-guard.
I have always adored them in their absence and write them back to life at every single chance.
When the blessed can-rattlers came out like ghouls bearing bent two bob bits I knew the jig was up.
Every bleak intersection in Fitzroy-Collingwood boasted wheezy pensioners who lied they knew Kevin Murray and had a pot with Chicken Smallhorn, who ironically had ten children despite his strange surname.

The power at the top of The Australian Football League held the working-class supporters of Fitzroy beneath their gin-and-tonic contempt. Ross Oakley and his sycophants wouldn’t have known a welder if they fell over one. Or a seed and grain merchant whose missus had left him due to bronchitis and the fact that she followed The Scraggers.

There’s only one thing more deluded than barracking for Footscray or The Western Bulldogs as they’re now known by the yuppies who think  Ted Whitten is an automotive undercoat.
And that delusion sadder than life is that merging Fitzroy With Footscray could be taken seriously. In 1995 that was the brain-storm of some of the AFL wunderkids.

Fitzroy had all the energy of a sloth struggling with lack of incentive during the entire season of that yearning year, they ran like the Flu and chased like syphilis and lost like a man trying to win a game I saw once played at a pub in Greensborough entitled ‘Scratch-A-Root’.

The idea with ‘Scratch-A-Root’ was to keep on drinking and after a while when mentally your wife had left you, a guy handed you a scratchy kind of gambling card that you scratched until all the fragments of poisonous lead fell into your half-slaked pot.
If you fluked three identical numbers, or sometimes the artwork was carrots, you got a root.

Or a pot of light or of heavy, it was entirely up to you who drank there like that.
I never did any good out of it. But I did a Royboy there one inclement night when we were all pretty worked up about whether or not they’d be in the competition next year, the lot of us.

My mate scratched three same carrots or numbers and won either a root with the hag behind the cash register who was trying to look intelligent or still-living, or you stuck to the heavy.
He said ‘I’ll take the pot!’ And that suited him fine. The old girl couldn’t have cared less and just frigged round with the display of nuts and scratched her gut with a packet of cashews, a revolting habit if you ask me.

The worrying aspect of listening to the news whilst dead drunk was that Fitzroy were going to go out of the competition, to be replaced with Alzheimers.

Every street was choked with brain-dead can-rattlers calling out ‘Save The Roys At All Costs!’
And clinically-depressed motorists out of kindness ran over them.

The main one I saw can-shakers on was Wellington Street in Collingwood, which is so pitch-black you can’t even make out the missing teeth of the shakers, all you can see in that old street is a patch of sick outside the pubs where they add salt to the grog to make the mugs drink more, not a bad lurk that.
I used to be frightened I’d run over a can rattler but then again that’d get me enough shrapnel to make it through the weekend, no problem about that one.

I was rung by 3AW by the producer of ‘Lawyers Guns And Money’ because back then I used to go on that program, unpaid in money but I got drunk once a week with Denis whatever-he-was who used to be a star and the idea was to become involved with a fund-raiser down at the old Fitzroy Bowling Club and maybe glean upwards of a hundred grand to go in the campaign coffers.

At the do at the old bowling club there were lots of two-bob celebrities and Bert Newton.
It was a most passionate meeting indeed and lots of promises were made and many a cheque almost signed. I put in fifty.

But not one of the promises eventuated and although nearly a million, it was thought by those who can almost count,was raised to save The Roys, nothing comes of nothing, not even the pong of Dencorub in the crook-back-dark where hundreds of faithful and true believer Royboys lay in their beds and they put one up for Fitzroy Football Club, a prayer I mean, and their crook backs only got worse when Fitzroy were got rid of a year on from that false fund-raiser.

I have never witnessed so much bullshit in my whole life as the false promises to save The Roys from oblivion. Thousands shoved into rattling tins of Punt Road all went west.
Thousands inserted into demented can rattler’s orifices went west.
Who did the add-ups of this sacred shrapnel?
Was it really a million or did it become investments or one bedroom flats of miracle men?

Pubs faithful to not-flat pots contained wailing and the gnashing of dud cashews.
Fitzroy, the word Fitzroy, was said in vain in a million lavatories of crummy hotels where the bar keep has all the grey matter of Percy Jones.

It was like a great wailing sound coming from Hell or The AFL, no difference, came up over our city and in 1996, when we were got rid of, Melbourne could never be taken seriously again in any way, shape or form. We were corrupt.

We killed the thing we loved. The AFL voted what no human being should ever be pressured to put their hand up for. To kill The Lions.

No more Bernie Quinlan or Micky Conlan or hoarse screamings of ‘Come on Fitzroy!’
Now there are a thousand imitators of the original Lions but they are all bullshit.
It didn’t matter how much trouble we were in. It did matter that they killed us off and like when you’re dead you don’t get up again in the morning. There are no mornings any more or goal posts or Scratch A Roots.

I got drunk during the gum-guard-end of 1996 at a pub in Carlton with my old mate Leon Weigard, our president, who loves a drink.
During our upset and passionate grog-up he started to weep and confess to me stuff I didn’t know until he blubbered and cleaned up my cashews and licked all the excess free salt off my hand.

He had just had a last minute meeting with Ross Oakley and the hatchet men at  AFL House, which is an unhallowed house I wouldn’t like to tread in. It’s the opposite of The Shrine.

I left that old dark pub and walked home trying to forget and trying to remember all the anguish in my old friend’s anguished dial. He who had played water polo for Reservoir. Or Australia. Same thing. But I just couldn’t get rid of his agonised eyes or his general grief and horror of losing what no one ought to, his club.

When South Melbourne turned into Sydney Swans we lost more than a beloved old club and the game turned into money, an unfortunate metamorphoses indeed.
I used to love going down to Lake Oval and watch Fitzroy battle it out with Bobby Skilton and his monkey-looking twin brothers. South were the ugliest men who ever ran on, including Jeff Kennett who is worse-looking than me, and that’s saying something, I tell you that for nothing.

But old South were got rid of just like we were got rid of. My heart just about burst when the word filtered through that Fitzroy were dead. It was like kissing was dead or that The Lord Newry is dead, although with that shit-hole it’s probably a good idea.

The remarkable clamour dies down after South die and are pathetically a market exercise instead of stops and boots and mates you love with a big red bit down your white front.
The excitement does not belong to the supporters any more but the grief certainly does. You bite into a Four ‘N Twenty Grief Pie.

Fitzroy were to have merged with North not far from their extinction, but imagine a side called North Fitzroy?
That would be like being called North Reservoir, for whom I was invited to play in their hard to get into Under 90 side. The players are so moribund they drive to the back line.

Politics in sport is an acidic lesson as unplayable as a neck tumour.

The masters do as they like and Fitzroy are scrapped with nothing to take their place except cyanide, gang rape or having a go at the lawn on a bleak Saturday.
You can’t look them up in the paper as papers have no meaning either.
You can’t barrack for any other club because they didn’t care that Fitzroy went.
All that they cared was that they stayed. They didn’t even put a black arm band on for us when the masters pulled the pin on love.

Oh, terrible grief that they were murdered without an autopsy report or a post mortem or the proper dream-study of the remembrance of sport past. Wise boundary umpies say all we have for a future is that kind of remembrance, and they should know about remembrance because they were all brain-dead.

The loyal mums and dads and kids all dressed in love can see them no more because the bosses voted them out.
No one to yell out for and nothing to see and no one to think of taking an incredible mark on the suffocating train home. No more Bernie Quinlan or Micky Conlan or Matt Rendell.
The dead wind whistles like a hare-lip through a useless discarded Chiko Roll on the way home. Except now there isn’t one. Ross Oakley saw to that.

Many years ago I lunched with Eddie Hart who played at full forward for Fitzroy against Richmond down at the Junction Oval in 1944 at the grand final. He told me there were only four teams in the league that year since all the other ones were off overseas fighting the Japs and Krauts.
He said the grass that day was really too high to play on and desperately needed a mow.
He said lots of men suffered hay fever due to the unreal high couch-grass.
He said it felt good to cream The Tigers any time, particularly in time of war.

He said lots of fans came to that match using coal-burners due to severe petrol rationing.
He sang to me over a chilled pot of squash the old Fitzroy song that went like this.
‘If you’re Fitzroy come into the parlour
There’s a welcome mat for you’
I forget the rest but remember everything about our beautiful old club, the fair dinkum one, the original that had Billy Stephen in it.


  1. Barry – a lot of things are simply got rid of these days. Things that matter. Things that have survived the test of time but get discarded without a thought. Or without a clear thought anyway. The papers are full of stories about things being discarded. I wonder where it will end.

    Some more magic lines in here:
    “At the do at the old bowling club there were lots of two-bob celebrities and Bert Newton”
    “He who had played water polo for Reservoir. Or Australia. Same thing”.
    “……and had a pot with Chicken Smallhorn, who ironically had ten children despite his strange surname”

    Great stuff.

  2. Any team that wins a Premiership during a World War deserves extinction or Eddie McGuire as President.

  3. Mark Doyle says

    Barry, are you being ironic or just bitter and twisted? Fitzroy did not survive as a Melbourne based club because they were poorly managed. You cannot blame Ross Oakley and the AFL administration. The Fitzroy Football Club traded their best players to other clubs: Alistair Lynch to Brisbane, Paul Roos to Sydney, John Blakey to North Melbourne, Gary Pert to Collingwood, Michael Gale and Paul Broderick to Richmond and Richard Osborne. You should be grateful that the history of the Fitzroy Football Club is being preserved by the Brisbane Football Club. Long time Fitzroy supporters should follow the example of blokes such as Kevin Murray and Laurie Serafini and embrace the Brisbane Lions. The premierships of 2001, 2002 and 2003 are surely worth something for the merger of the Brisbane Bears and the Fitzroy Lions.

  4. Barry Levinson says

    Mark Doyle, I can only assume you were never a Fitzroy supporter. Yes Fitzroy wsa poorly managed, but apart from Gary Pert and John Blakey, none of those players was willingly traded. You couldn’t blame the other players for jumping ship when Fitzroy’s viability was constantly under question. I wish the AFL’s equalisation fund, which magically appeared a few years after the Roys were taken from us, was around a bit earlier. Pretty hard to support a team when you can never take your kids to training and they only play 6 games in your own state, if you’re lucky.

  5. Adam Muyt says

    It’s a ramble but it’s a Fitzroy ramble, and I’ll take that any day. Gems of words and calamities of vsion from the Royboy’s very own poet laureate. Barry’s unique and wonderful ‘Sentimental Roymance’ columns in the old Melbourne Times – on the paper’s Religion page – helped lead me to the Land of the Roy when I first arrived in Melbourne in the early 1980s. The club might be gone but I’m eternally grateful for Barry’s prompts and the years I then had with them. What a love!

  6. Bob Pulford says

    Thanks for a great article Barry.I am age 73 yrs. lived in Fitzroy from childhood and
    went to watch the Roy’s train on Tuesdays and Thursdays.Loved going to Brunnie st. to see the games and witnessed many blues, especially when we played Collingwood.
    I have clear memories of Eddie Hart( no. 25.) and His brother Don (no.10) who played at centre half forward. It was fun to see Edie growl at Don if he didn’t deliver the ball to him correctly.Another amazing memory was that of Tony Ongarella kicking goals from place kicks.Barry ,Ross Oakley and his mob can get stuffed.They may have taken away our great team and tradition, but they cannot take away our memories for they will stay with us forever. Bob Pulford.

  7. Loved the colour and passion of the writing, but half way through I started to feel like I was at a Gough rally circa 1975. Something that deserved to die with dignity – as a noble failure – not be put down like a mangey dog. But put down, one way or another.
    Who would you have voted for in the Federation Referendums? The Australian nation, the Victorian province or perhaps for no more than the local council fiefdom. I have waxed and waned on many things throughout my life, but I have always fought for the bigger picture. That growth and a bigger vision ennobles us all. That stasis is death. And that death, while sad is the seed and nutrient of a bigger stronger tree.
    What really decided me was your claiming of Matthew Rendell as a son of old Fitzroy. Showed me how narrow and provincial and elitist the old VFL comp was. You could steal the best from the poor cousins in SA, WA, Tassie and the Riverina and parade them as your own.
    I remember Matt Rendell as the hope of the hopeless – my old side West Torrens in SA – before his first knee problems. He was breathtaking for a couple of years as a late teengager – with the strength of a Nicholls; the mark of a Rick Davies and the leap of a poor man’s Natanui. When he came back from injury he sensibly decided that footy life is short and uncertain – so he took the quids on offer in the VFL.
    How dare you claim him as your own.
    How dare you claim a provincial league as more important than a truly Australian Football League – that showcases the game from Fremantle to Brisbane and most parts in between.
    Its sad that something had to die. I know because Torrens had to merge after the Royboys stole our last best native hope of a flag. Such is life. But something better came out of it.
    Life goes on outside the vomit strewn pubs of inner city Melbourne. Thank Christ.
    I love good writing and oratory. But I try to be wary of polemic. A thing of sound and fury signifying nothing.

  8. Fitzroy accepted Doug Nicholls after the toffs at Carlton couldn’t cope with him. They also recruited Haydn Bunton, probably the most decorated player ever to don a footy boot, and snubbed the toffs in the process. Superboot, although he was a Scragger initially, is always seen in a Fitzroy jumper. Wallsy almost got them into a Grand Final whilst he was “playing” coach. I saw Fitzroy supporters cry when they lost a final at the G. And Mickey Conlan scooting along the boundary at VFL Park to bury Essendon in a final in the late 1980s. Can any true football supporter ever forget Kevin Murray if they saw him play? What about Gary Wilson? And wasn’t Alan Dale the best whistler EVER to tweet a tune on those radio shows featuring footballers in the 1950s!

    Although I’ didn’t barrack for them the Fitzroy jumper will always live in my mind – and it won’t change, as jumpers seem to on a weekly basis today.The club may be gone but the memory lingers on – Barry you can’t bring it back but keep on telling the story to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself and kick other true fans in the guts in the future.

    Bob Speechley
    from Aix-en-Provence

  9. pamela sherpa says

    Mark. I like your comment . Memories can be cherished but mulling about the past in misery is no good.

  10. Fitzroy was not an island when it came to poorly managed clubs. My problem, having read Hore-Lacey’s book and whatever else I could find, was the manner in which the AFL swiftly satisfied their want and whisked parts of Fitzroy up the coast in the middle of the night. Who could forget the alienating nature of Bears boss Noel Gordon smugly appearing on the Footy Show that night? That was enough to deter any old Royboy, Brisbane are lucky they have the Melbourne following and membership that they do!

    I know old Fitzroy people who support the Lions, and others who won’t have a bar of it, luke-warmly supporting other clubs or no one at all. And who is to tell an old Roy boy who to follow? Just becuase old Bulldog Murray has embraced Brisbane doesn’t mean it’s a choice for all.

    The saddest and most hollow of ‘victories’ I as a Richmond supporter have witnessed was Fitzroy’s last match in Melbourne. The outpouring of grief was immense, the anger very raw. We all deal with these upheavals differently, and Barry, continue writing in such a manner to display your grief. I for one enjoy it. I understand the economic realities but Fremantle, the Power, Eagles, Crows, Suns or Giants don’t come close to filling the hole left by old Fitzroy.

  11. Andrew Starkie says

    I’m with you, Barry. Stuff ’em all, lads.

    Footy is supposed to be emotional and a bit irrational. Too much of life is too serious and too far up its own bum. Footy is the other part of our brain. When we escape and draw on the inner child.

    As a Roo, I feel like the unwanted relative at a family wedding every time I show up to Etihad at a Claytons time, 1.10pm or 4.40pm Sunday. When did Collingwood last play on Mother’s Day?

    Barry, I’ve lived in both Reser and West Preston and my favourite line of yours is, ‘He was as interesting as a weekend in West Preston.’ I was sitting in a coffee shop on Gilbert Road and laughed out loud.

    Go Lions and Roos

  12. Good on you Barry, a great heartfelt story. I miss the Gorillas/Roys/Lions even though I never barracked for them in the VFL. I joined the Fitzroy Football Club the other day, they play in the VAFA on the Brunswick Street oval, and they play in the old Fitzroy jumper.

  13. 30-odd years ago, there we all were, young Willy Juniors footballers,
    at footy training, all in our club colours.
    One kid, Ross Hall, had a Fitzroy jumper on, the number 36 of
    Harvey Merrigan on the back. Why? I had never met a Fitzroy
    supporter before, I was 15 years old.
    “I will love em til I die”, he said. They died before him, but I bet he
    still loves em.

  14. DBalassone says

    Really feel the Royboy spirit coming through in this one.

    And, of course, the AFL could have saved them….

    PS from memory all those great players listed above, played for well under their market price for many years before they left.

  15. Dave Nadel says

    Ther are some inaccuracies and jumbled dates in Dickins article (e,g, 11 teams played through WW2 and Geelong only missed two seasons) but the basic thrust of Dickins sad memories are true. Fitzroy had management problems but so did almost every club in the VFL/AFL at some time between 1970 and 2000 (with the possible exception of Essendon). Fitzroys problems were demographic and historical. Even if they had been as well managed as North Melbourne in the Aylett/Joseph years it would have only postponed some inevitable problems.

    As I have probably written in other threads in the almanac – the VFL and in the early years, the AFL , always had two sets of rules. Clubs with large supporter bases like Collingwood, Carlton, Richmond and Essendon and possibly St Kilda, clubs with strategic names and history (Geelong and Melbourne) and later clubs that were part of the interstae expansion program, Sydney Swans and Brisbane Bears were to be protected from themselves. All of these clubs were at some stage either bailed out by the VFL/AFL, given massive aid (Brisbane and Sydney) had the rules changed in the favour, or at the very least had their recruiting trespasses forgiven (Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon).

    The five clubs with very small supporter bases and unpromising demographics, South Melbourne, Fitzroy, North Melbourne, Hawthorn and Footscray were given no margin for error and were constantly threatened with amalagamation and relocation and three of them had their ground development money frozen as early as 1981. Hawthorn eventually moved out of the danger zone through on field success and powerful friends, North Melbourne avoided multiple disasters mostly through good management and Footscray basically by changing its name and doing whatever the AFL asked it to – both clubs would still be vulnerable if the AFL ran into financial difficulties. Fitzroy and South Melbourne were destroyed or relocated, depending on how tyou want to interpret it..

    Mark Doyle, your explanation “Fitzroy did not survive as a Melbourne based club because they were poorly managed. You cannot blame Ross Oakley and the AFL administration. The Fitzroy Football Club traded their best players to other clubs: ” is like explaining poverty in the third world in terms of incompetent governments (which there certainly are) without mentioning, imperialism, capitalism, globalisation, trade exploitation etc.etc.

  16. Jeff Dowsing says

    Dave, you are 100% correct on every point.

    I wrote a feature for Inside Sport ‘Roy Boys Rebooted’ about the entity which never died but resurfaced in the VAFA in 2009. I met several fantastic people including Kevin Murray. I also spent some time with long suffering secretary Bill Atherton who has battled the AFL & Brisbane since the ‘merger’ on a number of issues.

    There is fault on both sides – Fitzroy had prior opportunities to take up offers that would have given them real continuity as opposed to the convenient lip service proffered by Brisbane. Bill told me they should have sought to return to the VFA because that was their sustainable level post WW2.

    But the means of execution were disgraceful. And that the AFL has propped up so many clubs and included soulless new ones with dubious motives makes me as a Collingwood supporter feel great empathy.

    The AFL is an industry, but an industry like few others. It has lost its way.

  17. Malby Dangles says

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one’s team. All the Roys supporters I know don’t feel much for the game anymore.

  18. Pamela Sherpa says

    Jeff, I take issue with you calling the new clubs soulless. The supporters who are part of the new clubs are passionate and supportive and they are right behind their clubs now when they are not expected to win many games. They are following them because they love footy and want to see the game as a whole develop around the country. Richard Naco’s article on the site today describes this well.

  19. Adam Muyt says

    “I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one’s team. All the Roys supporters I know don’t feel much for the game anymore.”

    Malby, yes, it’s a terrible experience to lose your club but while all the Roys supporters you know don’t feel much for the game nowadays, I suggest the broader picture is more nuanced. This is based on research I did when writing ‘Maroon & Blue – recollections and tales of the Fitzroy Fotball Club’, published in 2006.

    There are many Royboys and Roygirls who now barrack for the Brisbane Lions – exact numbers can never be known but it’s not unreasonable to put the Melbourne figure somewhere between 15-25 thousand, largely based on crowd figures when the Lions were top of the heep in the first half of the naughties. Others now barrack for other clubs. And yes, many have walked away from footy, or at least the AFL version of it. I estimate something like 40-45% follow Brisbane, 40-45% have left AFL behind and 5-10% now follow another team or even code.

    For anyone interested I wrote a paper on what became of Fitzroy supporters for a Victoria University publication, Behind the Play, published in 2008. Am happy to send a copy to anyone interested in it – just drop me a line.

  20. Jeff Dowsing says

    Pamela, in my opinion for a club to have a ‘soul’ it needs to be an organic creation instigated by the community. The new clubs were strategically created by AFL administrators, and in GWS case virtually run by the AFL.

    Yes their supporters are passionate and all that. So we’re Fitzroy’s. And although they had an unsustainable number of supporters, they had far more than the new clubs.

    And here we are with the League prepared to underwrite these clubs to the tune of $30m a year for possibly the next 10-20 years until they’re possibly viable.

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on the value and impact the new clubs have made on the competion Pamela. If I was new to the game or lived elsewhere perhaps I would think differently, but from my angle the game has lost the appeal it once had, and I know plenty others down here who feel the same.

  21. I find this a really interesting debate because of the Victorian/national divide. I have a strong sense of cultural imperialism from the Vics (albeit unwitting – they are just accustomed to being the centre of the football universe). I hated losing West Torrens, so I can empathise with all the Fitzroy fans who lost their team. Reminisce by all means. Wilson, Conlan, Quinlan, Roos, Pert etc were great to watch, and like many people Fitzroy were often my second VFL team.
    But could we have ever had a truly Australian Football League with 12 teams in Melbourne??? Ten is too many as it is now. I recognise the commercial and legal problems of rationalisation, but if you were starting with a clean sheet it would be an 8/8 split in a 16 team competition to optimise the quality of both players and teams.
    Someone had to go, and I am sorry for Fitzroy people that it was their team, but I struggle with the general Victorian position in this thread that all the Melbourne teams deserved to be saved. Why? Other than sentimentality.
    If it were today – Riverina boys like Hayden Bunton Snr and Doug Nicholls should line up for the Giants as a broadly NSW team. Matt Rendell would have played for the Crows or Power.
    We need more local identity in football, so that fans can follow players from juniors to AFL. While I like the socialist equalisation of the draft, I look forward to when NSW and Queensland are equally strong recruiting bases so that a greater element of ‘local preference’ can be built into the draft rules.
    Go Giants.

  22. Mark Doyle says

    Jeff Dowsing, your and other comments are supercilious and arrogant and typical of Melbourne people who have never accepted that the elite level aussie rules competition is no longer an inner Melbourne suburban competition. I believe that the best thing that happened to the VFL in the 1980’s was the AFL. The AFL is the best elite level professional football competition in the world because it is well managed and every AFL club has an equal and fair opportunity to be successful because of the salary cap, draft and extra financial dividends provided to clubs because of their low supporter numbers. Most elite level professional football competitiions in other parts of the world are dominated by a few rich clubs who can recruit the best players in an open market. AFL football is also the best football code for entertainment because of it’s free flowing and spectacular athleticism. AFL football also provides excellent conditions for spectators at a cheap price. You should also understand that football supporters from all parts of the country are no less passionate about their football than Melbourne people.The most passionate football supporters in Australia that I have seen are Tiwi Island people; the Tiwi Islands grand final is a great experience.
    I suspect that you and a lot of other Melbourne people like to live in the last century when Melbourne had the elite level aussie rules competition plus another good competition with two divisions of the VFA. However, this is no longer the case and we are progressing to an exciting future with at least two AFL teams in five states with great community support.

  23. Strewth, Mark. I dunno what charm school you went to. “Supercilious and arrogant and typical of Melbourne people……”. No stereotyping there. Won them over to our point of view straight away. Any chance of getting you to run for Liberal pre-selection? Julia deserves an even break.

  24. Mark Doyle says

    The antii-parochial ‘boots and all’ action faction charm school, Peter! Julia needs more than an even break, She is stuffed!

  25. Dave Nadel says

    The problem with both the AFL and the NRL is that they are national leagues grafted on to state leagues. PeterB is right that there is something wrong with a national league that has more than half its clubs in one city but that is inevitable if you are going to graft the national league onto the VFL. However that appears to be the only way that you can build a national league in this country. None of the attempts to build a national league from scratch have been anywhere near as successful as the AFL or the NRL. Soccer is on its second attempt at a national league. So is baseball and effectively so is mens basketball even if the NBL didn’t fall apart as comprehensively as the soccer or baseball leagues. Netball had to combine with New Zealand to build a viable “national” league.”

    However, while the development of the National Leagues demoted the state Aussie Rules comps in Adelaide and Perth and the state Rugby League comp in Brisbane, at least the clubs exist. Because the AFL is grafted on to the VFL and the NRL on to the NSWRL when clubs from Melbourne and Sydney disappear they are gone forever. The Brisbane Lions and Sydney Swans may continue but Fitzroy and South Melbourne Football Clubs, like North Sydney Rugby League club are gone forever. I think that is a loss for the culture of Melbourne and Sydney.

  26. Agreed Dave. And the alternative was???

  27. Dave Nadel says

    There were several attempts in the 1980s, mostly from SA and WA to form a national league from scratch. I could give you chapter and verse if I was at home (which I’m not) as I wrote about them in my PhD thesis. The important fact is that they failed because the VFL in partnership with Channel 7 effectively controlled professional AFL football. As I said above, Peter, there probably was only one way a succesful national league could be built. However there were other ways of dealing with South Melbourne and Fitzroy.

    The VFL had former St Kilda President Graham Huggins report on the prospects of an EXPANSION team in Sydney, then used the report to justify relocating South which wasn’t what Huggins had proposed. Developing footy in Sydney was always going to be difficult but relocating the Swans probably made it harder than it would have been with a new team. Meanwhile traditional South supporters lost their club. Fitzroy may have been doomed by demographics, small supporter base and poor management but its hard to thiink of a more brutal execution than the death of a 1000 cuts presided over by Ross Oakley between 1991 and 1996.

    One alternative would have been to collaborate with the VFA in the 80s to create a genuine second tier Victorian competition to which South Melbourne and Fitzroy could have been readmitted (and maybe others as well) It could have been the equivalent of the WAFL and SANFL. Instead of which the VFL in the late 70s and 80s crushed the VFA, bankrupted it by effectively forcing it off Channel 10, and then turned it into a seconds competition for Victorian AFL clubs. It may look like the Victorian equivalent of the WAFL and SANFL, but it isn’t because it lacks the clarity and integrity of those competitions The VFA, ridiculously renamed the VFL, includes, Stand alone clubs, full seconds teams of AFL clubs (Geelong and Collingwood) partial seconds of AFL clubs (affiliated clubs) and partial, partial seconds of AFL clubs (North’s players are divided between Werribee and North Ballarat) each of these four categories are governed by different rules on player availability.

    I can’t speak for South or Fitzroy supporters, but if Collingwood had been permanently relocated and renamed the Canberra Magpies I would want to have a club called Collingwood playing the majority of its games in Victoria even if it was at a lower level. South and Fitzroy supporters have never been offered that option (Apart from clubs in the lower divisions of the Amateurs)

  28. Mark, I won’t trade insults with you because I think you’ve just misread the flight of the ball with regard my comments.

    I am all for the national competition but I just believe it needs to be done the right way.

    I don’t agree with the cart before the horse rush job that is GWS. To my way of thinking the $30m the club cost the AFL last year and whatever it will cost the next few could have been better invested at building the game there from the bottom up. Then when the time is right make the call on whether it’s a viable option that won’t put the whole competition at financial risk.

    As for Gold Coast, at least there is some football base to begin with, though I’m still not convinced that it will work based on the AFL, NRL, A-League and the NBL’s prvious failed attempts to run professional sporting teams there.

  29. Adam….I’d be most intereste in a copy of your Fitzroy supporters paper…. my email is [email protected]. Cheers

  30. pamela sherpa says

    Jeff , the AFL are not putting the cart before the horse at all. They are joining the dots. It may surprise many Victorians but Aussie Rules has existed in NSW , the ACT and Queensland for a long time. This has been mentioned many times before on the site. GWS and the Suns are new clubs in name but they are connecting people from many areas where Aussie Rules clubs have long existed.

  31. The Friar says

    Barry, Keith Fleming was an old mate of mine. Second rover to Haydn Bunton. He said Bunton never gave him a run on the ball. Said he was the greatest forward pocket player of all times. Remember him?

  32. Jeff Dowsing says

    Well aware Pamela, but there’s a difference between a sport existing somewhere and setting up a professional sporting team in a competition that is struggling to sustain the clubs it already has.

    It’s not as if people in greater metro Sydney were being denied AFL…

    My opinion is that the Swans and Brisbane sufficiently represented the interest Aussie Rules presently has in the northern states at this time, much as the Storm do in Melbourne. But the NRL wouldn’t contemplate starting up another new team from scratch in Melbourne.

    I realize you are a passionate Giants fan, but all things considered, this venture is a massive risk the AFL didn’t need to take.

  33. Mark Doyle says

    Jeff Dowsing, you just get it. The AFL’s policy of developing the code in NSW and QLD by intoducing the two new clubs was agreed by all the existing clubs and especially the significant budget required. Everybody needs to be patient for at least five years and give the new clubs a chance to get established and become competitive. You should also understand that the AFL needs a game in Sydney or Canberra and Brisbane or the Gold Coast every weekend to maximise TV revenue and sponsor exposure because almost half the Australian population lives in the east coast area from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast in QLD. . It is also good for the competition to have local rivalries in all states.

  34. Jeff Dowsing says

    Glad I just get it Mark, thanks for your help.

    The reason why the clubs agreed to it was they were sold on the promise of lucrative TV rights which would help guarantee their immediate future. But I think a few would now be wondering if it was worth setting their premiership windows back 5 years.

    Now as the astronomical cost becomes apparent, the squeeze will be put back on the clubs of which at least half a dozen are a couple bad years away from serious strife.

    Mark, we clearly differ on our football philosophy. I am progressive but I see more value in investing in a stand alone team in Tassie or even Canberra and putting more money into grassroots footy that is struggling in places like SA.

    I’m sorry, clubs created to fill TV schedules isn’t the kind of completion that engages me. Nor do I believe twice yearly derbies will necessarily make the northern clubs work. You can’t just manufacture a rivalry in any case.

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