We really need VFL to throw us a bone here | From the Press Box with Melanie Whelan

STRIVING HIGH: Bringing VFL action to Ballarat next season, for example a team like the Bulldogs, showcases a pathway for country footballers to test their games at a higher level. Picture: Luis Enrique Ascui
STRIVING HIGH: Bringing VFL action to Ballarat next season, for example a team like the Bulldogs, showcases a pathway for country footballers to test their games at a higher level. Picture: Luis Enrique Ascui

PRESS BOX PLAYBACK: What happens if the Roosters’ stand-alone venture fails?

WE WAIT and should be hoping the Bulldogs thrown us a bone for play in the meantime.

As eagerly as we are hanging out to learn when Western Bulldogs bring their next AFL premiership season games here, we should be championing Ballarat’s Victorian Football League potential for the Doggies next year.

While this city’s VFL future remains in limbo, we need a VFL match at Mars Stadium next year – even if just to remind us what we are missing as the football community takes stock to attempt a re-launch.

The AFL has locked in a pre-season hit-out for Western Bulldogs in the Ballarat kennel next March and will reveal on Tuesday when we will have our next premiership season installments.

Soon after comes the VFL fixture, which for the first time in more than two decades will not feature North Ballarat Roosters. 

There has been talk we will host a VFL match so the league would not evaporate from Ballarat.

But we need to support it, not just to try and lobby for a Ballarat return but also to reinforce a pathway. 

Up in Bendigo, the VFL has vanished. The region’s VFL pathway was severed three years ago in Bendigo Gold’s demise, two years after a bitter end to a full-VFL alignment with Essendon.

VFL action returned to Queen Elizabeth Oval, including a couple of Essendon VFL home games, but this year no VFL games came to town.

The full impact of no VFL home team in Ballarat is far from felt. There has been some exciting signings for Roosters players to grassroots clubs about the region but the reality is that our best players must now take their game to Melbourne or Geelong, to reach the next level.

WAIT: Our new Mars Stadium still offers an arena for the Victorian Football League, but we need to fill it and show why we still want it.

WAIT: Our new Mars Stadium still offers an arena for the Victorian Football League, but we need to fill it and show why we still want it.

Being a VFL-listed player is a tough gig. Most weeks players are lining up against or alongside AFL-listed footballers, full-time professionals with all the medical and fitness trimmings.

VFL prepare in modifed AFL-like environments often between full-time work or study commitments. It is incredibly demanding and can be immensely rewarding.

These players set an impressively high-standard on and off the field.

Losing a VFL team, means losing the flow-on effects and influence of this to grassroots ranks. 

Winning back a VFL licence will be hard work. Despite a keen interest from AFL VIctoria and key parties about town, there are no guarantees.

We cannot afford to lose a VFL link altogether in the meantime.

The Bulldogs are the obvious, ideal choice. Footscray home games are played at the ‘Dogs’ spiritual home ground Whitten Oval but a couple of games in Ballarat will really strengthen the club’s ties here and be a show of faith. But it would not matter who we host.

Mars Stadium is guaranteed AFL action, but to host VFL would continue showcasing a more tangible pathway for top country footballers to keep pushing to improve and strive to play at the highest level they can. Ignoring that step would risk stalling senior football development across the region – full effects of this are only starting to show in Bendigo.