INTERLEAGUE football has got to go.
We need a revamp of this best-of-the-best concept that we can truly get excited about.
Parochialism is petering out despite the fact those who take up the challenge undoubtedly do so with great pride.
This columnist has long championed interleague as an important pathway for our top footballers to take their games to the next level. Players who dare to take on largely unknown opponents and showcase what our leagues are about deserve to be celebrated.
Being named in an interleague squad is no easy feat.
It is a great chance to absorb from the league's best and promote teamwork among players who would otherwise be rivals.
But there is still an increasing niggle that for the vast majority, interleague weekend is more akin to a handy bye.
Competing demands on players are a major hurdle. Grassroots clubs have good money and time in vested in star players. You can understand why many would be conservative in putting their best on the park to risk injury in match with no bearing on premiership chances or other club goals. Not to mention the chance to enjoy a brief mid-season reprieve to spend time with family and friends.
This all diminishes the interleague buzz.
AFL has not bothered with representative football for years and this does set a cultural tone that filters back to community levels. Why put players' bodies on the line?
Players and supporters need more motivation - something to really get fired up about and put their pride on the line.
Look to soccer.
A statewide knock-out style tournament, like Football Federation Australia's FFA Cup, would really put club pride on the line with so much to play for.
Brisbane Lions' great Jonathan Brown is bringing a Hampden league team loaded with Koroit players to face Ballarat at Mars Stadium on Saturday. Koroit has won the past five flags.
Brown is a great drawcard as coach and offers a great experience for those who play both for and against him.
But instead, pit Koroit against reigning BFL premier East Point this weekend - that would definitely add a bit more spice to the match and responsibility to being a league's title holder.
Imagine then, a battle for league pride between East Point and Beaufort, the reigning Central Highlands' premier.
Our interleague coaches do a great job in piecing together representative squads from only a few rounds' action each season. Even adapting the concept to a post-season pro-ball game, like the United States' National Football League, would have similar challenges like enticing the best-of-the-rest players to play one more game when their season was otherwise over.
Splitting the league in half works for the NFL conference system and should tap into territorial pride in the BFL, which will play east versus west in under-18s this weekend. But the concept does not necessarily work for all leagues without obvious definition.
We cannot keep playing the same way we are now, either. Same goes on the netball court.
Interleague needs a refresh. In the modern game, we need more to play for.
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