by Ante Jukic
As a devoted fan of Australian football and also having an interest in the media, I feel obliged to shed my thoughts on the current turmoil surrounding the NPLV saga, and also the coverage in reaction to ongoing developments.
With my work and the ungodly hours during the week that come with it, I never seem able to find the time to contribute regularly aside from weekend match reports for local newspapers. In reality, I can only break stories sporadically on top of my primary workload. I admit this with some regret due to the renowned tendency for the Addy in particular, to focus on local footy, netball and the Cattery, in neglect of other important sporting topics, in recent times.
Not that I have anything against that. Whoever listens to his and David Jacoby’s hilarious yet insightful podcasts will immediately understand, but in line with the ethos of Grantland’s Jalen Rose, they’re giving the people what they want.
Alas, I only really have time to submit my thoughts about it all through this, ultimately on a whim, as the hour suggests slumber. So much so, that I haven’t really put much thought into a platform to convey them that will get on side with all the soccerati, in some sycophantic attempt to gain e-cred.
Fuck it, here goes.
With all the news and gossip about the NPL, along with subsequent rhetoric from both sides of the footballing spectrum, a few things have struck me while reading on the topic.
I’ll expand on them in this piece, and hopefully in others if I have the time, or if I get enough feedback to suggest people aren’t completely uninterested. (Not really. The feedback doesn’t bear the utmost importance, given the therapeutic nature of this piece.)
Before I continue, I’d like to tip the proverbial hat, to those endeavouring to relay as much information to the football community as possible.
I remember breaking it for Goal last year, with respect to the FFV’s plans put forward to VPL clubs nose raised, and doing a few follow up pieces for the Addy, but MFootball particularly have done a remarkable job pushing the story.
I am not suggesting that anyone currently covering is missing the point, and the last thing I want to do is evoke in a footballing sense, the icy and begrudging disappointment usually reserved for that weekly ritual on Aunty, but here’s where it can improve.
- Analysis of the actual criteria in what purports as serious journalism remains, by and large, lost.
- Regarding the significance of the reforms on the game here, I find it astounding that neither of Melbourne’s major mastheads have picked up on the matter.
- Given this magnitude of the restructure’s effect on the local game, the disturbing ambiguity from the FFV on its implementation conveys a seemingly abhorrent disdain for the media, and for general transparency.
On my first point, enough has been stated about cost. The risk of a fatal gulf between potential turnover and potential expenditure is an important issue and one to which clubs and reporters have every right to give ample attention. On that token, an actual breakdown of potential costs is justified (e.g. cost for coaching, hiring a adequate facility for 40 weeks, licencing, compared to income), considering the sheer amount of conjecture surrounding a possible balloon in expenses.
However, I find it fascinating that arguably just as big a point in the discussion, what’s to be changed on the pitch, has by and large been left out from conversation. As stated in 4b of the FFV’s NPLV Participation Criteria, clubs must “agree to implement the 1-4-3-3 formation for junior teams” in an effort to synchronise junior development across the country and provide an easier path for elite, talented youngsters, or something that’ll suck unknowing parents in along those lines.
Doesn’t that challenge, though, the very thing people love about the game in the first place? I’m keen to take in any expansion or disagreement on this. Or any of the piece for that matter. My love for football stems not only from the unmatched duality of physical attrition and ingenuity, but from the manifestation of identity through tactics and style.
Being able to play the game the way one sees fit in its purest, most innocent form.
I can understand this line of thinking within a national team setup or solely within the confines of an individual club, but wouldn’t the next logical step be to enforce the same method onto A-League franchises if it was initially enforced on clubs?
With the ever-changing and counter-acting nature of tactics in football, as well as the diversity of style within it, this ludicrous notion sets out to undermine the subjective essence of football and why it captivates.
This restructure after all, mind, is seen in some circles as rendering meaningless club identities and cultures - like the A-League did to a degree - proving another body blow to the proud tradition of Australian football, amidst the increasingly American culture of centralisation and over-regulation in the Australian sporting landscape.
Relative to the baggage that lingers in discussions about the history of Australian football, and the questions that remain as to the status of clubs that were once at the top of the game’s competitive heirarchy, that’s also worthy of discussion and analysis, right?
Basically, this system will knowingly nurture and promote players unable to tactically adapt in real-time to the developments of a given game.
Basically, this system will knowingly nurture and promote players unable to tactically adapt in real-time to the developments of a given game, against opponents that don’t adhere to kneeling before the fashionable formation of the time.
Implementing such an inflexible and closed-minded notion doesn’t serve to enhance the potential of juniors; juniors a part of such a culturally and philosophically diverse community that is the Australian footballing family. Rather, it restricts, and changing the course from above, would take far too long to properly administer, once modern footballing tactics naturally adjust to what is currently the norm, like it always has done. Anyone who has even flicked through Jonathan Wilson's Inverting the Pyramid as an introduction into tactical analysis can view this as undeniable.
FFA and in turn FFV, in this instance, are voluntarily placing us behind the eight ball, allowing others to innovate for us, while our governing bodies will decide whether it’s viable to play catch-up. The fact remains this is a central issue, and that it has garnered little to no attention worries me.
Shit, it’s past midnight, though. Folks have gone to sleep, record’s stopped playing, and my eyelids are heavy. Enough for now.