THE concept of a rivalry round is an appealing one.
Who can resist the idea of pairing up clubs with a grudge to dance with one another?
Certainly not the supporters, who tend to flock to the footy on these weekends, as evidenced by outstanding crowds at Maddingley Park for the match between the Cobras and the Devils on Saturday, and then at Melton Recreation Reserve between the Panthers and the Bloods.
“We get people at Melton South versus Melton games that you wouldn’t see any other day of the year,” Melton South president Tyrone Charge says.
The AFL has previously fostered the idea of a rivalry round.
Looking at this season’s draw it appears to have done away with it.
Part of the problem with the AFL’s rivalry round was, after the obvious matches were paired up, you were left with the wallflowers who had no obvious dancing partner.
And then, to make the wallflowers feel less awkward and friendless, you’d end up breaking up the real rivalries. You’d start with the ones that go without saying: West Coast versus Fremantle, and Adelaide versus Port.
Throw in the newcomers, so you can do Sydney versus GWS, and Brisbane against Gold Coast.
Then you pick the ones that are guaranteed to draw a big audience, such as Essendon and Collingwood, or Richmond versus Carlton. All good so far.
But maybe we should throw Hawthorn at Essendon, or maybe North? Who is Melbourne’s big rival if not Collingwood? And what about St Kilda?
So, apart from the Dons and the Blues, and Tiges v Pies, you’d end up with Melbourne versus Geelong (well they both have private grammar schools, I guess), or Western Bulldogs versus St Kilda or North – a clear case of playing off for the “Last two kids picked for sports at school” Cup.
The Red Onion BFL’s rivalry round has similar difficulties. Darley and the Marsh – obvious, Melton and Melton South – but what do you then do with others? And then someone has to have the bye.
This year we ended up with Lake Wendouree versus Ballarat, East Point against Redan and then the huge rivalry between – wait for it – Sunbury and Sebastopol.
That one even had the Sunbury club president scratching his head.
“I didn’t know we had such a huge rivalry with Sebas,” Phil Lithgow mused without prompting, on Saturday.
“If you’re going to have a rivalry round we’d have wanted Redan. It was one of our requests.
“I spoke with (Redan president) Darryl (Blomeley) and he was happy with that, too.”
Of course, if you take Redan out of the current mix for a rivalry face-off with Sunbury, you create as many problems as you solve.
East Point versus Ballarat, or maybe North City versus Ballarat might also work.
Then you’re left with three, and you only need two to tango.
We like the rivalry round but it’s not an easy one. It might need a little more work.
Then again, rivalries develop over time.
Perhaps a Sunbury versus Sebastopol one might, too.