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VFL clubs believe they might be extinct under new state league, AFL’s best VFL recruits since 2000

VFL clubs believe they might be extinct under new state league, AFL’s best VFL recruits since 2000

Coburg VFL general manager Seb Spagnuolo has put together his best 22 who started their careers in the VFL from 2000-2020. He has pleaded for the AFL to consider the future of stand-alone VFL teams.

Jon Ralph, Herald Sun

Subscriber only


June 4, 2020 7:50pm




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Coburg has launched an impassioned plea for the AFL to retain its traditional VFL clubs, arguing they are a critical pipeline of some of the league’s most decorated stars.

As the AFL considers whether to launch an eastern seaboard state league competition, stand-alone clubs fear they will be left with precarious futures from next year.

Coburg general manager Seb Spagnuolo told the Herald Sun the VFL must be retained not only for the history of the clubs but the incredible depth of talent that had progressed to the AFL.


Spagnuolo presented a best 22 list of AFL talent from 2000-2020 that started in the VFL that includes premiership captains Sam Mitchell and Nick Maxwell and premiership stars Josh Gibson, Dale Morris, Shane Mumford, Kane Lambert, Liam Picken.

He said yesterday the fear was that too many of those players would drift from the football landscape if not allowed a chance to start at a non-aligned AFL club.


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 Wayne Ludbey

Sam Mitchell is one of the greats to come out of the VFL. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

The WAFL already has an August 1 starting date, with non-aligned Victorian clubs hopeful of starting a truncated eight-team competition.




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Coburg is in the process of completing a $6.75 million renovation of home ground Piranha Park funded by the league, state government and local council and is desperate to be part of the state league competition next year.

"If there's a competition in 2020, Coburg are in, we've canvassed our players, coaches and staff and we're in,” Spagnuolo said.

“Our people will be making a huge sacrifice and we're very proud of their commitment. We are hopeful of a season being started but ultimately the AFL will decide with all the facts that they have,” he said.

"With some local football and country football competitions already having to cancel the 2020 season, it's important that the state league of football in Victoria, which is the second best competition in the country behind the AFL, is on display just as the WA and SA state leagues will be."

“With the potential for a major restructure of football later this year, in particular the rumoured eastern seaboard AFL reserves competition coming in 2021 the VFL stand-alone clubs are wanting to ensure that each of our club's rich histories as well as our proposed future doesn't get lost.

“You look at the talent and the players in this selected team of VFL recruits for the period of 2000-2020 and AFL fans will see many of their favourite players. Without a strong State league in Victoria many of those players might not have had the chance to win an AFL premiership or in Sam Mitchell's case win a Brownlow."

*The football community should want a strong Victorian state league to exist so that the next Sam Mitchell, Matthew Boyd or Nick Maxwell also have the chance to come through. Even with the current players like Adam Saad, Rowan Marshall, Michael Gibbons and Sam Collins they would not have been able to progress to AFL level without the strong VFL competition that they got drafted from.”


B: Adam Saad (Coburg), Josh Gibson (Port Melbourne), Michael Hibberd (Frankston)

HB: Michael Firrito (Box Hill), Nick Maxwell (North Ballarat), Dale Morris (Werribee)

C: Isaac Smith (North Ballarat), Sam Mitchell (Box Hill), Sam Gibson (Box Hill)

HF: Liam Picken (Williamstown), James Podsiadly (Essendon), Kane Lambert (Williamstown)

F: Aaron Davey (Port Melbourne), Ben Brown (Werribee), Tory Dickson (Bendigo)

R: Darren Jolly (North Ballarat), Michael Barlow (Werribee), Matthew Boyd (Frankston)

INTER: Shane Mumford (Geelong VFL), Ben McGlynn (Box Hill), Robin Nahas (Port Melbourne), Scott Thompson (Geelong)

STIFF TO MISS: Jake King (Coburg), Ben Hudson (Werribee), David Teague (Murray Kangaroos), Alex Silvagni (Casey), Luke Ryan (Coburg)


Adam Saad – Recruited from Coburg, 92* games for Gold Coast & Essendon.

Josh Gibson – Recruited from Pt Melbourne, 225 games for Nth Melb and Hawthorn. 2 x B & F winner, 3x AFL Premierships, All-Australian 2015

Michael Hibberd – Recruited from Frankston, 143* games for Essendon & Melbourne, 1 x All Australian

Michael Firrito – Recruited from Box Hill, 275 games for Nth Melb, Represented Australia in 2008 Int’l Rules series

Nick Maxwell – Recruited from Nth Ballarat, 208 games for Collingwood, 1 x Premiership as Captain, 4 years as Coll Captain, All-Australian 2009

Nick Maxwell holds up the 2010 premiership cup.

Nick Maxwell holds up the 2010 premiership cup.

Dale Morris – Recruited from Werribee, 253 games for Western Bulldogs, 1 x AFL Premiership, All-Australian 2008

Isaac Smith – Recruited from Nth Ballarat, 201* games for Hawthorn, 3 x AFL Premierships

Sam Mitchell – Recruited from Box Hill, 329 games for Hawthorn & West Coast, 1 x AFL Premiership Captain, 3 x AFL Premierships, 2012 Brownlow Medal, 5 x B & F winner, 3 x All Australian, AFL Rising Star 2003, Vic (2008 and Australian (2014-15) rep honours.

Sam Gibson – Recruited from Box Hill, 135 games for Nth Melb & Adelaide. Played 130 Games in succession from debut.

Liam Picken – Recruited from Williamstown, 198 games for Western Bulldogs, 1 x AFL premiership.


Liam Picken was recruited from Williamstown. Picture: Getty

James Podsiadly – Recruited from Essendon VFL & Werribee, 104 games for Geelong and Adelaide, 195 goals, 1 x AFL premiership, 1 x club leading goalkicker.

Kane Lambert – 95* games for Richmond. 2 x AFL premierships.

Aaron Davey – Recruited from Port Melbourne, 178 games, 174 goals for Melb, 1 x club B & F winner Melb, Australian Int’l rules rep.

Ben Brown – Recruited from Werribee, 121* games and 279* goals for Nth, 4 x club leading goalkicker, Australian int’l rules rep.

Tory Dickson – Recruited from Bendigo, 113 games and 181 goals for Western Bulldogs, 1 x AFL premiership.

Darren Jolly – Recruited from Nth Ballarat, 237 games for Melb, Syd & Coll, 2 x AFL Premierships.

Michael Barlow – Recruited from Werribee, 141 games for Fremantle & Gold Coast, 3 x WA Derby BOG


Michael Barlow was a revelation in his first season at AFL level. Picture: Getty

Matthew Boyd – Recruited from Frankston – 292 games for Western Bulldogs, 1 x AFL premiership, 3 years as Bulldogs captain. 3 x Club B & F winner, 3 x All-Australian, Australian Int’l rules rep.

Shane Mumford – Recruited from Geelong VFL, 192* games for Gee, Syd & GWS, 1 x AFL premiership,

1 x club B & F winner.

Ben McGlynn – Recruited from Box Hill, 171 games and 195 goals for Hawthorn & Sydney,

Robin Nahas – Recruited from Pt Melbourne – 117 games and 135 goals for Richmond and Nth Melb, Australian Int’l rules rep.

Scott Thompson, Recruited from Geelong VFL, 241 games for Nth Melbourne, 1 x All-Australian, 1 x club B & F winner