NEVER underestimate interleague’s importance.
Sporting pathways to the elite ranks, when clear and well-structured, are invaluable in producing our next generation of athletes at the top of their game.
Ballarat has an incredibly rich history in serving up top athletes to international and national sporting arenas. We are pretty impressive for a regional city.
In football, the emphasis is on our best young talent playing with the Rebels in TAC Cup under-18s or Roosters in the Victorian Football League. These programs are both launch pads to the AFL and a chance for our region’s best to play alongside the best in the state, which in the VFL includes a wealth of AFL-listed talent.
In netball, Ballarat is home to Victorian Netball League club Sovereigns, including its 19/under arm. Sovereigns puts this region’s talent in prime recruiting ground for state selectors, the Australian Netball League and ANZ Championships. And ultimately, these pathways can lead to the Australian Diamonds.
Interleague is a reward for grassroots footballers and netballers to step their games up a notch.
The competitive nature of sport spurs athletes of all levels to strive for their best. Social, carefree sport has its place and value, but for most, there is always that drive to try your best.
There will always be those who maintain an acute club-central mentality and downplay interleague’s merits as an unnecessary injury risk to a club’s campaign.
But when a league’s star players embrace the concept, that is when interleague football works its magic. When else can a league select a dream team and physically put this to the test.
Young rising stars can train and play alongside decorated rivals.
Central Highlands Foot-
ball League will field AFL experience in Matt Tyler (Brisbane AFL/Springbank) and Will Young (Adelaide AFL/Newlyn). Tyler is also a Roosters VFL premiership player, as is Paul McMahon (Springbank) and Michael Searl (Springbank). Searl captained the Roosters the past two season, while McMahon is a premiership player and Henderson medallist in the Ballarat Football League from his time with Lake Wendouree.
The CHFL has named young guns Nick Weightman (Bungaree) and Joel Maher (Springbank) in a clever move to build future league depth.
Interleague exposes these players to the increased intensity, speed and skill that is representative football.
Importantly, they are exposed to how big-name league players go about their games – the discipline, hard work and commitment it takes to play at their best.
Each and every player will take something valuable from the experience back to their grassroots clubs in much the same way those involved or returning from state-level football.
Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald has encouraged those players not required for VFL duty to play and train with their league’s representative teams.
He told The Courier that interleague is the best football outside the VFL.
Those on the Roosters’ list should be striving to be out in the thick of AFL Victoria Country Championship action.
These same benefits translate to the netball court.
Ballarat Football Netball League has named four Sovereigns players for its open team in Laura McDonald (Lake Wendouree), Lauren Atkinson (East Point), Erin Riley (Redan) and Jordyn Bibby (North Ballarat City).
Ballarat captain Georgia Cann (Sebastopol) has captained in VNL champion-
ship division, while centre-courter Stacey McCartin (North Ballarat City) has a wealth of VNL experience.
For a player such as young East Point goaler Lauren Jew, the reward is being recognised for her stellar sharp shooting this season – and the chance to mix it with the best in the league on her home court at Eastern Oval before the packed grandstand, usually reserved for finals netball.
Junior interleague football and netball is just as big an honour.
Climbing the elite pathways is exceptionally tough.
For a really good club footballer or netballer, inter-
league is the pinnacle. It is a chance to represent your competition alongside the best. It is a chance to push your game and to play with a new kind of pride.