From the AFL website
Gulf may widen between VFL clubs: Ayres
By Ryan Davidson and Ashley Browne
Apr 11, 2018 7:30AM
Richmond beat Port Melbourne by 65 points in the VFL Grand Final rematch - AFL,VFL
Richmond beat Port Melbourne by 65 points in the VFL Grand Final rematch
You hope that's not a gulf that could be appearing between the AFL clubs and the VFL standalones
Oft-injured Pie veteran set for VFL return
THE TALENT gap between standalone clubs and AFL-aligned clubs in the VFL could be widening, Port Melbourne coach Gary Ayres fears.
Round one of the Victorian state league was one of the most lopsided in recent years, with standalone clubs Coburg and Frankston thrashed by 102 and 107 points respectively, while Port Melbourne (65 points) and Williamstown (37 points) were also beaten convincingly by AFL-aligned rivals.
The only outlier from the opening round was Werribee's four-point loss to Geelong.
Ahead of his 700th game as a player and coach at AFL/VFL and VFL/VFA level, Ayres, who was a five-time premiership star with Hawthorn, is concerned that the gap between the VFL haves and have-nots could be approaching worrying levels.
IN THE MIX ROUND FOUR: Who's a possible in for your team?
"I don't know whether (round one) was a one-off, but all the standalone clubs bar Werribee, the closest margin for the standalones was about 50 points," Ayres told AFL.com.au.
"You hope that's not a gulf that could be appearing between the AFL clubs and the VFL standalones."
Another disadvantage the standalone clubs face is the increasing pattern of former AFL players choosing to continue their careers in local football, where remuneration and job prospects can be more lucrative.
Ayres, who coached the Borough to the 2017 VFL flag, has only five players with AFL experience at his disposal for the team's premiership defence after the inner-city club failed to sign a recruit over the off-season who had played at the highest level.
"We have had a consistent run (over the years) of topping up our list with players who want to play at the highest level, but this summer, a lot of players we spoke to who were leaving the AFL wanting less commitment and were happy to play in the 'burbs," Ayres said.
"They were keen to look at job prospects and that's something our infrastructure couldn't handle.
"It was very difficult to convince them to stay in the VFL, which we believe is the best standard of footy outside the AFL. It might have been a one-off (period), I'm not sure, but it has been hard to get players coming out of the AFL."
Port Melbourne has also been hampered this year after being forced to relinquish its first two home games of the season because its home ground, North Port Oval, was deemed unsafe for football following the recently completed cricket season.
This unavailability of the ground they have played at since 1927 will force the Borough to unveil the 2017 premiership flag at their first home game in round six.
Ayres said the frustrating situation was one of many disadvantages standalone clubs had to endure compared to their well-resourced AFL-aligned competitors.
"It's all the things that go with running a footy club – the finances, memberships, sponsorships, being able to utilise your ground when it is divided between football and cricket," he said.
"It's about the council and having (our ground) ready. We can't play at our home ground and it is not the first time this has happened.
"We always seem to pay a price, and from a preparation point of view that makes it a bit sad. The clubs with the AFL alignments have the opportunity to be full-time and the opportunity to have unbelievable facilities.
"It is just another hurdle for the standalone clubs to remain in the competition."