THERE is a somewhat ridiculous perception around the traps in the VFL with stand alone teams such as Geelong, Collingwood, Carlton (Northern Blues) and virtually Essendon (Bendigo).
That perception is that they don’t aim to win and play finals and instead focus on player development.
Surely, this isn’t true. Geelong won a flag in 2007; the first stand alone AFL club in the league to do so. Its success in the VFL and AFL prompted other teams to follow and transform.
So to say that success in the VFL is not paramount to an AFL clubs’ success is evidently wrong.
The Cats’ victories that season were full of merit and class. They have gone on to become a super power.
And then Collingwood wanted its VFL team to so desperately make the finals last season to prolong the season for some players recovering from injury.
The Northern Blues will be the same as Carlton aims to keep its VFL feeder team driven for success.
So it was interesting when Bendigo coach Hayden Skipworth was put in an awkward situation and forced to clarify his comments after a published story in the Herald Sun portrayed him and the Bombers as paying no respect to Bendigo and its alignment.
“It’s been made very clear to me from the powers [that] be at Essendon that it’s not about win-loss – it’s all about playing the young Essendon guys in the positions they need to be played in,” Skipworth told the Herald Sun.
“If we lose games because of that, then so be it.”
Skipworth clarified the comments to afl.com.au suggesting that the reporter had not dished out a fair article of his views.
“I’m really disappointed about the way in which the story was reported as it certainly didn’t reflect the discussion I had or my views for the upcoming season,” Skipworth said. “Our goal and ambition has always been to play finals and that has never changed. The club has played finals for the past two seasons and has continued to successfully develop young talent. This year will be no different.”
This was after Bendigo general manager Peter Lodewijks suggested the report was “disappointing” in a statement on the clubs’ website.
“It’s been reported comments were made to the effect that ‘developing James Hird’s next generation of stars was priority number 1′ and that AFL-listed player development must take precedence over winning VFL matches,” The statement read.
“These comments and our partner’s apparent attitude to the coming VFL season certainly don’t reflect our views on the alignment between our two clubs because we’re strongly committed to on-field success in 2012.”
In essence, there are different models in the VFL competition. Stand alone AFL teams, stand alone VFL teams, alligned teams and partially-aligned teams. It all makes for interesting debate on which model is the best.
Port Melbourne proved for the first time that a stand alone VFL team could win the flag in its history making season last year; just as Geelong did in 2007 when trouncing Coburg.
Bendigo has made the finals in recent seasons. Just don’t go writing them off yet from some out of context quotes from an Essendon development coach.
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