Local Footy: Goulburn Valley emerge from haze to win Victorian country crown

If Freo is known as the Purple Haze, the Goulburn Valley Football League should be known as the Purple Haze and a Half. On Saturday the GV combined team, which wears purple guernseys with a yellow monogram, went into its match against the Ovens and Murray to decide the best country competition in Victoria with a record of tumult that would make even the Dockers (well, the old Dockers) sit up.

Before the 2008 season, there was uproar when it was revealed that the GV league was $120,000 in the red. Part of the debt was $35,000 owed to Vic Health to pay back the funding for a project that was never carried out. Veteran administrator Keith Wellman, then 74, was installed (on next to no wages) to help sort out the mess.

Wellman’s steadiness has been a factor in the league’s effort in climbing out of debt. On the field, the GV has continued to be a pace-setter. In 2009 it was rated the second best country Victorian league behind the Ovens and Murray.

In the GV league’s opening round this season, Shepparton called for a head-count at half-time of its match against Shepparton Swans at the Deakin Reserve on Good Friday. The count revealed that the Swans had had 18 on the field despite having a player sent off. Their points were wiped out.

The decision prompted Swans coach Perry Meka, back at the Swans after a colourful stint at Kyabram District league club Ardmona, to let fly at an interchange official to the extent that Ian McDonald, the chairman of the GV league, left the grandstand and headed to the boundary line to step in. Wellman joined him.

After the break, GV officials admitted that the wrong Swans player had been sent off. The Swans’ points were reinstated. The Swans went on to win the match, but a later investigation recommended a reversal. The Swans’ score to half-time was wiped out retrospectively. Shepparton was awarded the four points.

In round two, the Swans’ match against Echuca at Princes Park, Shepparton, was marred when a fracas broke out at three-quarter time. Dozens of spectators spilled on to the field to join the ruckus. Echuca won the match.

Late last month, Meka faced the GV tribunal to answer a charge of bringing the game into dispute during his outburst at half-time of the round-one match. Iain Findlay, well-known as a players’ advocate in the AFL, represented Meka. Findlay’s argument that Meka’s outburst contained no words that are considered outrageous in today’s society persuaded the tribunal to find him not guilty.

McDonald responded to the decision by resigning as GV chairman. When it was proposed that Ian Fitzsimons would replace him, the Victorian Country Football League made known its disapproval. Fitzsimons had been chairman when the GV spiralled into debt.

Robert Bell, originally from Euroa, was installed as chairman around the time that the GV began its interleague campaign. The GV’s upheavals led the Ovens and Murray to believe that it would face an opponent in disarray.

Under coach Peter White, however, the GV had strong numbers during its four training runs, at Seymour, Deakin Reserve in Shepparton (twice) and North Melbourne’s ground at Arden Street. The withdrawals of the five players recruited from AFL clubs to GV clubs this season (Russell Robertson, Adem Yze, Nathan Brown, Kayne Pettifer and Joel Perry) did nothing to dent enthusiasm.

At Lavington on Saturday, former Melbourne rookie Paul Newman (Kyabram) led the GV team and formed a potent key-forward set-up with Shepparton United’s Jason Eagle (a Mildura product who last year kicked 90 goals with Redlands in the WAFL). Eagle kicked four goals and Newman three.

GV’s midfielder quality was underlined by Echuca’s Brad Murray, who has won the Ovens and Murray’s Morris Medal while playing with Myrtleford, his home club, as well as best-and-fairests with Port Adelaide in the SANFL and West Perth in the WAFL. He was best on ground, while Lavington midfielder Matt Prendergast was the best for the home team.

The GV led all match before Ovens and Murray challenged halfway through the last quarter. Murray then stepped in to steady the Purple and Golds. He was best on ground.

In winning by four goals, the GV earned the right to be called the best competition in country Victoria. Keith Wellman was among the GV officials who looked very satisfied in the rooms after the match.


  1. John Butler says

    Makes the AFL seem mundane.

  2. Good read Daff, I remember Perry Meka appearing in the EJ Whitten Legends game a few years back.

    By the way, you might be interested to know that my Dad has a strong interest in country footy, and he’s a regular in your country footy tipping competition. He’s named “The Serval” and is ranked 7th.

  3. Thanks Adam. The country footy tipping comp is run by Glenn McMahon of countryfootyscores.com, but we provide Almanacs as prizes for Glenn. Hope your father is a better tipster than me.

  4. Richard Jones says

    DAFF: as far as the VCFL rankings go, No. 1 in 2010 was the Ovens and Murray who played No. 2: GVFL.
    Then down the seedings the match-ups went. Ballarat No. 3 beat Geelong No. 4 so they’ll play Goulburn Valley — the new No. #1 — to decide top dog status in 2011.

    Down the 2010 seedings we go until we got to No. 8 Bendigo vs No. 7 Gippsland. Bendigo won so they jumped to #6 and a 2011 date with Geelong which has slipped to #5th.
    I think you asked about Mornington Peninsula. They went into this year’s series seeded No. 6.
    A win over Hampden down in western Vic propelled the Bayside boys up the table, hence their 2011 meeting with O and M which has really gone on the slide.

    I know the Geelong District F.L. (#17th this season) is really hoping for a game against Bellarine in the not too distant future. Bellarine hasn’t won an inter-league game for yonks (#10th but beaten by Murray (#9th) in the 3 pm game at the QEO on Sat.)
    So the Geelong DFL which beat Heathcote DFL (#18th) at Bell Post Hill fancies their chances should a Geelong-area clash eventuate.

    Here’s how the VCFL rated the top dozen leagues before last weekend’s games:- 1. O and M. 2. Goulburn Valley. 3. Ballarat (beaten by Bendigo at Bacchus March May ’09, so no one knows how they got so high). 4. Geelong. 5. Hampden. 6. Mornington Peninsula. 7. Gippsland. 8. Bendigo. 9. Murray and 10. Bellarine. 11. Wimmera. 12. Central Murray.

    I think Football Geelong might have pulled the Geelong F.L. out of inter-league carnivals for a year or 2 hence their fourth seeding for this May.

  5. Richard,

    The Ballarat and Bendigo positions indicate my confusion. How did these seedings come about?

    Ballarat apparently beat Geelong at the weekend by playing a version of Saints footy. I groaned.

  6. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Great win by the GVL!

    What good work by Bomber White, a Ky boy, who has successfully coached in the GV and in the Kyabram district league – he even coached Ky to a flag! He can bring a team together.

    The GVL have lost a fine president in Ian Mcdonald.
    Disgraceful incident according to my informants.
    Its the GV Tribunal that ought to resign!

  7. Rocket,

    The word is that the tribunal froze in front of a controversial, high-profile identity. They didn’t want any more controversy.

    Maybe they were they were just persuaded by Fingers Findlay’s argument that the F-word doesn’t constitute bad language any more.

    I’d probably agree with that. But the vituperative, over-the-top nature of Perry’s attack was the real issue.

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