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Rep footy still on the ‘PA agenda

With the NRL’s State of Origin Series getting underway tonight, talk has once again turned to the prospect of a form of representative football being played in the AFL. The following article was published earlier this year, and details the AFL Players’ hopes for representative football to be incorporated into the AFL fixture in coming years. 

Earlier this year, the AFL announced changes to the selection criteria of the 2014 International Rules team, which will see the side made up entirely of All-Australian players.

“Hopefully we can get it up with the AFL in 2016” – Gary Ablett, on Representative Football

While seeing the game’s best players together on one team will be a fantastic spectacle for both fans and players, there is still an appetite to have the competition’s best players playing against, as well as with, one another.

Five-time AFL Players’ Association MVP Award winner, Gary Ablett, is looking forward to the day he gets to compete against the best.

“The ‘PA have kept us informed and we’ve been involved in putting the proposal together, so hopefully we can get it up with the AFL in 2016,” Ablett said.

“I really enjoyed growing up watching the champions of the game playing together. It’d be great to get the same opportunity and I’m sure fans would love it too.”

In the past, there were queries about whether the game’s very best players were interested in playing representative football; for the concept to work, it’s crucial the game’s elite buy into it.

VFL 1989 State of Origin Match - Victoria v South Australia

In 2013, with that in mind, the Players’ Association asked 80 players likely to be in consideration for representative football to complete a survey that aimed to measure their interest. Every player who completed it expressed a desire to play rep footy.

The players want it, and if it’s done well the fans will love it too. The question is how it would all work. There are two possible solutions that have been floated by the ‘PA; the traditional State of Origin model, or a City v Country alternative.

The results of the 2013 survey saw a majority of players voting for Origin as their preferred model, with roughly a third of players expressing a preference for a City v Country match. While most players leaned towards one type of match over the other, many said they’d be happy to play in either. More than two thirds of players said representative football should be played each year.

There has been discussion about when the best time to play representative footy would be, but having a match as either the final or penultimate pre-season match appears the best and most logical solution. The potential for injuries will always exist, but players will be competing in practice matches at that time of year anyway.

Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury is another star of the game passionate about the reintroduction of representative footy.

“I’ve been a big supporter of this,” Pendlebury said.

“I understand it’s not without its challenges, and that we need to work through these issues, but I don’t think this should stop it from going ahead.

“I’m confident we’ll get there eventually and it’ll be exciting for everyone involved once we do.”

“We’ll get there eventually and it’ll be exciting for everyone involved once we do” – Scott Pendlebury

Whilst the AFL has chosen to focus on the International Rules Series as the key representative fixture for 2014/15, it has also indicated that it will continue talking with players about their representative football proposal.

Acting Players’ Association CEO Ian Prendergast told the Herald Sun last week that the ‘PA will “continue to lobby for support from the AFL with a view to 2016.”

Prendergast reminisced about watching “champions like Dunstall and Lockett in the same forward line” during the ’90s and couldn’t help but wonder what it’d be like to see players such as Ablett, Pendlebury and Dangerfield playing in the same midfield.

Would there be a footy supporter in the country who wouldn’t enjoy seeing that?

Which would you prefer to see; the return of State of Origin, or a City v Country match? Let us know in the comment box below.