Can inter-league footy be revived? by Richard Jones


Inter-league football has hit a number of speed humps in the past few weeks with AFL Victoria virtually closing the entire road system off. Will the famous Bendigo Blue and Golds still be able to organise a match, say against old rivals Goulburn Valley or Ballarat? At the time of writing it’s still to be figured out although at least the ‘Don’t Enter’ signs haven’t been finally erected just yet.

What got me thinking was a sports article in the Geelong Addy where the Geelong District Football League had dismissed all notions of playing inter-league next season. The honchos there, however, hadn’t ruled out returning to inter-league in 2021 possibly against neighbouring Geelong district body: the Bellarine Football League.

Time’s slipping away for us with the Heathcote league still not happy with the AFL Victoria ruling.

So why is inter-league footy so important?

Well, it gives regional and district players their chance to play the game at the highest level possible. They’re pulling on the representative guernsey of their leagues and running out with normal Saturday opponents to bond with them as the top footballers in their competition. I’ve seen a number of BFNL inter-league games in recent decades and have travelled to all sorts of places.

The grounds I’ve been to either as a footy writer or a radio commentator haven’t always been in Victoria. One May we went to Mount Gambier across the border in South Australia and in another season it was off to Barooga just over the NSW state line. Then there was the light plane ride to Sale with Advertiser photographer Peter Hyett, BFNL medico Dr Wally McGregor and then VCFL district councillor John Monahan. The return flight back to the Bendigo aerodrome landed a long time before the team bus hit the outskirts of Bendigo.

Other regional centres I’ve been to with the Blue and Golds include Shepparton, Lavington (an Albury suburb), Warrnambool, Ballarat (a number of times) and East Geelong. The BFNL was matched up against the Geelong league in a 1980s semi-final. Hence the trip to East Geelong where we broadcast from the flat roof of a change pavilion.

Then there was the time when Shane Healy and I called the BFNL inter-league game from ‘Arctic Park’ – better known as Waverley Park – with Bendigo drawn to play their inter-league fixture that season as an AFL curtain-raiser. Except it was the VFL back in the day.

I missed the semi-final, once again versus the Geelong league, in a June long weekend MCG curtain-raiser. Apart from ‘Bundy’ Reaper, the Blue and Gold forward line was non-existent that day as Geelong romped home . But what a thrill for the players of both sides to be out on the MCG showing off their skills.

By the time the last quarter rolled around a large proportion of the holiday crowd was in their seats ready for the big game. But they at least saw the tail-end of the regional inter-league clash.

So now we’re into December let’s see what unravels for Bendigo’s Blue and Golds in the next little while and not close down the whole inter-league concept.

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