Aaron Black could be catalyst for WAFL resurgence
Aaron Black has spent the best part of 20 years wondering one thing.
He spent his childhood and early days in football dreaming about being drafted. Later, he got used to the heartache of being overlooked repeatedly and used it to help focus on forging one of the great modern WAFL careers.
Yet, at 29 and after two decades in the game, he never stopped wondering how he would go if he somehow found himself in the AFL.
“Would I get a kick?”
“Would I embarrass myself?
“Could I stand alongside those players I have played with and against in my time at West Perth?”
It only took two hours at Marvel Stadium on Sunday for Black to provide an emphatic answer to his question.
Yes, he can play at this level. No, he did not embarrass himself. Yes, he is on par with Jack Darling and Tim Kelly and Marlion Pickett and those other WAFL team-mates and opponents he has encountered on his journey.
Black has provided one of the great football stories of the year, a story of endeavour and faith and commitment.
Making the most of his late call-up to a West Coast team gutted by Covid withdrawals has added another enthralling chapter to a highlight list that includes a Sandover Medal, premiership and numerous State appearances.
But his greatest achievement came in 2018 when his leadership kept the West Perth players on track for the grand final despite their club being on the verge of collapse. It was that leadership and experience that contributed to West Coast sending him an SOS.
It was evident that several of the promoted young Eagles were little prepared for the intensity of the game on Sunday and that West Coast might have been better off calling up a couple more players armed with considerable experience rather than the mere promise displayed in junior ranks.
If nothing else, Black’s success highlighted the quality of the league from which he emerged and should reinforce to the AFL, the two local clubs and the WA Football Commission itself of the value and importance of this historic competition.
That could be a double-edged sword, of course.
Underlining the WAFL’s importance could help bring resources and attention to clubs and a league that often operate on bare bones. Yet it might also prompt AFL clubs and the national league to further plunder the high-quality playing stocks available to them at minimal exertion and low cost.
It is a fine line but Black, even more than Kelly and Pickett before him, might be the catalyst for a rethink on how the WAFL fits into the national football landscape.