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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

WA should relish return of the Big V

One of the best things to come out of the Gather Round in Adelaide was the return of Victoria to State football.

Even better was the Big V going 14 points down to a South Australian team that will have a crack at beating WA for the fifth time in as many seasons when they meet for the 99th time next month.

Victoria spat the dummy and walked away from State football when a WA team coached by Mike Broadbridge and captained by

Kyal Horsley towelled them up at Port Melbourne in 2017.

That was the first and only time that WA have beaten Victoria on their home turf and while it does not carry the same weight as the inaugural State of Origin match or the 1961 carnival triumph, it remains one of the high points in the State’s interstate rivalry.

On a personal level, that was one of the best sporting trips I have experienced as a reporter covering State and national teams.

The camaraderie and focus within the playing, coaching and support groups were almost unrivalled in my experience while there were numerous memorable moments to stoke the conversation whenever the participants encounter each other.

Two things spring to mind.

The first was Horsley’s short, sharp and incisive comment to a team-mate who was excited that he had got tickets to the Dreamtime match at the MCG after the State game.

“Not having winners’ drinks with your mates after our game?” Horsley asked as his target got the message in an instant and immediately asked, somewhat mournfully, ‘Anyone want four tickets to Dreamtime at the G?’”

The second was at the official jumper presentation at the team hotel the night before the match when Jack Bradshaw’s grandmother brought the house down with her response to a comment by assistant coach Paul Johnson. Bradshaw had been plucked from the Claremont reserves and did his job superbly with three important goals, as well as sustaining a critical knee injury that subsequently ended his career.

He was presented with his WA jumper by Johnson, the former East Perth star and Melbourne, Hawthorn and West Coast ruckman, who made his feeling known about the Victorian opposition.

“I hate the $@#%s,” he said before spluttering an apology when he realised that Mrs Bradshaw was sitting in the front row.

“That’s alright Paul,” she said, “I quite agree with you.”

The room erupted amid a growing sense that the next day would belong to WA. The game has changed fundamentally since then with the VFL expanding to the northern States and even having Port Adelaide contemplate joining them in the near future.

That particular madness is the topic for another column but it does suggest that the VFL is regaining some of the credibility and value lost before and after their pasting by the Black Swans.

WA football officials have not had any contact with their VFL counterparts but it is likely that an approach will be made to ascertain Victoria’s interest in returning to the interstate roster.

State football is still the pinnacle for many players and an important indicator of a league’s health.

WA have lost their past four games to the Croweaters since annual contests replaced the previous three-year rotation that

included Victoria, Tasmania and versions of Queensland or the defunct NEAFL.

Three of those losses have been by seven, four and 13 points to suggest there is little between the leagues though, to be fair, the margins have flattered WA.

Cam Shepherd will coach WA for the third time and will be aided by experienced WAFL coaches Ross McQueen and Beau Wardman, and newcomers Horsley and Adam Read.

Their programme will start in a week or two to prepare for the May 18 match which, with a bit of luck, will not only mark WA’s 49th victory over SA but the return to a full hand of interstate rivals.

And how good would it be for WA to have the chance to defend their historic win over the Big V with another win on their Melbourne dung heap?




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