Of all the things missing this Hampden league season, there still remains a glaring omission on the calendar.
After five rounds each season normally we would be about to enjoy a week’s break, with the league’s best players traditionally preparing for the annual interleague clash awaiting the competition.
Unfortunately the decision by AFL Victoria to put away the 2020 Country Championships has carried into this season, which has left the league without an interleague clash to look towards.
While the reasons for AFL Vic forgoing the championships had a number of valid reasons, it’s left a bit of an empty feeling for a league which has a rich history with interleague football.
In the 70s and 80s the league had status as the number one competition in country Victoria and while it’s been a long time since we’ve reached those heights, in more recent time we have risen up the rankings on the back of the coaching of Brisbane great Jonathon Brown.
Last season the league would potentially have had the opportunity to play a blockbuster clash against the Ovens and Murray league, a side which has proven formidable for us in years gone by.
But having come so far under Browny in the space of three years, we can only ponder what a crack at one of country Victoria’s top leagues might have been.
Given the progress, it would have been the perfect challenge and one our competition deserved after identifying four to five years ago interleague football still had a rightful place in the Hampden season.
We’re also left to ponder a missed opportunity in seeing the best of our league, take on the best of the O and M, a competition littered with ex-AFL and state league.
The league in a sense may have been robbed of the chance to see the likes of Jackson Bell and Liam Hoy taking on former Richmond midfielder Anthony Miles, Sam Cowling and Jack Williams facing former Melbourne forward Michael Newton, Jeremy Hausler rucking against former GWS big man Dawson Simpson and Alex Pulling challenging ex-Geelong and Richmond winger Taylor Hunt.
Add in the likes of Sam Dobson, Dallas Mooney, Jarrod Korewha, Cameron Spence, Jack Hutt and co coming up against O and M regulars including Albury’s Brayden O’Hara, Myrtleford’s Matt Dussin, Wodonga Raiders Jarrod Hodgkin and Jydon Neagle, as well as top liners including Shaun Mannagh, Leigh Masters, Kurt Aylett, Mark Whiley, Jeff Garlett, Aidan Johnson and Abraham Ankers among others and our league would have been given the perfect opportunity to test exactly where it stood in terms of representative football.
While we may never get the opportunity again to see exactly how far we could have gone or even the opportunity to test ourselves against a league like the O and M, the league should at least look at trying to facilitate an interleague clash of some form in the future.
Whether its an under 23s contest against the Warrnambool and District Football Netball League, or a potential showdown with leagues from Ballarat or Geelong, any chance to see the Bottle Greens jumper in action again is as much for the players and coaches as it is for the leagues followers too.
Author: Fraser Lucas