The 12 VFL country zones and how they would have screwed your club today

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“We’ll take everything from Portland to Mallacoota.”

EDDIE doesn’t like zones.

He fears the Giants’ hold over the Riverina region of Victoria and New South Wales will give them way too much of an advantage.

Fair enough, too. The Riverina certainly made South Melbourne a powerhouse in the ’70s and ’80s.

While zoning is a necessary evil for teams like Brisbane – whose southern recruits run home when they realise Queensland’s capital hasn’t got any beaches and nobody gives a shit about the AFL – it made a mockery of fairness when the VFL used it.

A strong country zone meant a strong list. A strong list meant a strong chance at success. And a strong chance at success meant Hawthorn won premierships.

Zoning has a lot to answer for.

So what would teams look like today if the old zones were still in place? Would it be fair? Would the perennial strugglers of yesteryear be given a fighting chance due to shifting demographics and populations?

No. No they wouldn’t.

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Surf Coast superstars Travis Boak and Paddy Dangerfield.

GEELONG

Zones: Geelong; mid-Murray

B: Darcy Gardiner — Scott Thompson — Jasper Pittard

HB: Jimmy Bartel — Lachie Henderson — Ed Curnow

C: Travis Boak — Patrick Dangerfield — Jack Steven

HF: Taylor Adams — Josh Jenkins — Allen Christensen

F: Luke Dahlhaus — Tom Hawkins — Shaun Higgins

R: Zaine Cordy — Steele Sidebottom — Gary Ablett

Int: Devon Smith — Darcy Parish — Paddy McCartin — Sam Lloyd

How the Cats would be screwed:

They wouldn’t. Dead set, Mick Turner gets too much credit for his – as BT screams it every three seconds – “Footy Factory”.

The fact is there’s plenty of space down in Geelong and sweet FA else to do but play footy.

Without a Melbourne zone to their name, the Cats were allowed to double-dip in the country, taking Geelong and the Surf Coast as well as a big section of the central Murray region – resulting in names like Hocking and Hawkins coming to Sleepy Hollow.

If the zone was reintroduced today, Geelong would take advantage of the population boom along the Surf Coast with the likes of Travis Boak (Torquay) and Jack Steven (Lorne) wearing the hoops.

Paddy Dangerfield (Anglesea) also would have mercifully avoided having to live in Adelaide for as long as he did.

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The very good Tom Lynch and the very much less good but not bad Matt Shaw.

HAWTHORN

Zone: Mornington Peninsula

B: Robert Murphy — Jacob Weitering — Michael Hibberd

HB: Dyson Heppell — Dylan Roberton — Sam Docherty

C: Lachie Whitfield — Luke Parker — Billy Hartung

HF: Andrejs Everitt — Jarryd Roughead — Dale Thomas

F: Jack Lonie — Tom Lynch — Jarryd Blair

R: Shane Mumford — Dylan Shiel — Nathan Jones

Int: Zak Jones — Tom Papley — Mark Baguley — Matt Shaw

How the Hawks would be screwed:

They wouldn’t either. There’s a reason why the Hawks won so many premierships in the ’80s and it’s not just because their mullet game was on point.

With a country zone stretching from the Mornington Peninsula all the way east to almost Morwell, the Hawks had an ever-growing population to choose from.

On top of that, their city zones were pretty cushy too.

Snagging Frankston and Cranbourne in the south-east, plus almost the entire wedge between the Eastern Freeway, the Monash Freeway and Springvale Road, Hawthorn was never going to be short on talent.

Fun fact: The Hawks weren’t meant to keep those zones indefinitely. When the system was introduced, clubs were meant to rotate their country zones annually, but the Hawks, the Blues and (bizarrely given what you’ll read later) the Tigers, all had productive zones and didn’t want to let them go.

Not that it had any ramifications for teams with weaker zones, like South Melbourne and Fitzroy…

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Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas in their Sale and Drouin guernseys.

FOOTSCRAY

Zone: Gippsland

B: Xavier Ellis — ??? — Sean Dempster

HB: Will Hams — Jack Leslie — Lukas Webb

C: Koby Stevens — Brendon Goddard — Nick Graham

HF: Brent Macaffer — John Butcher — Jed Lamb

F: Clay Smith — Nathan Vardy — Tim Membrey

R: ??? — Scott Pendlebury — Ryan Crowley

Int: Josh Dunkley —  Jordan Cunico — ??? — ???

How the Bulldogs would be screwed:

A little bit screwed, mainly due to Hawthorn.

Gippsland has been a hotbed for talented footballers over the past couple of decades, but the Dogs only got east Gippsland, while the Hawks greedily gobbled up west Gippsland along with the Mornington Peninsula, Hawthorn and Kew.

The Hawks’ zones were a massive Far Kew to the rest of the league.

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The Reid boys would be North Melbourne’s lynch pins.

NORTH MELBOURNE

Zone: Ovens & Murray

B: Alipate Carlile — Tom Lonergan — Taylor Duryea

HB: Sam Murray — Ben Reid — Nick Coughlan

C: Shaun Atley — Anthony Miles — Kayne Turner

HF: Steve Johnson — Sam Reid — Matt Taberner

F: Jonathon Ceglar — Dawson Simpson — Sam Rowe

R: Ben McEvoy — Jack Crisp — Jack Ziebell

Int: Mitch King — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Kangaroos would be screwed:

The first of the teams that couldn’t put together a 22 of country players alone, North were screwed by the fact that Geelong and South Melbourne took a fair chunk of the Murray region away from them.

There’s something in the water around Wangaratta and Wodonga though because it’s team of giants, with 11 of the 19 taller than 190cm.

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Jarrad Waite and Andrew Walker – and half an Eddie Betts.

MELBOURNE

Zone: Goulburn Valley

B: Jake Kelly — Caleb Marchbank — Jarman Impey

HB: Nathan Drummond — Alex Keath — Brett Deledio

C: Josh Prudden — Tom Rockliff — Michael Barlow

HF: Andrew Walker — Jarrad Waite — Clayton Oliver

F: Jamie Elliott — Josh Schache — Tom Downie

R: Luke Lowden — David Mundy — Ollie Wines

Int: ??? — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Demons would be screwed:

Unable to field 22 and  facing financial hardships, Melbourne would be forced into a deal with Goulburn Valley Fruit to change their theme song to that horrible Oarsome Foursome jingle.

It’s actually a pretty solid 18, although Melbourne’s metro zones – small pockets around Oakleigh and Toorak – wouldn’t offer up much talent these days given the a greater prevalence of inner-city wankers over young families.

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Carlton would have been populated almost exclusively by Selwoods.

CARLTON

Zone: Bendigo

B: Billy Evans — ??? — ???

HB: Jed Adcock — Troy Chaplin — Jarryn Geary

C: Scott Selwood — Dustin Martin — Ricky Henderson

HF: Tom Cole — Stewart Crameri — ???

F: ??? — Jake Stringer — ???

R: Jack Redpath — Joel Selwood — Nick Dal Santo

Int: ??? — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Blues would be screwed:

Generally considered a strong zone, Carlton would have relied on Mr and Mrs Selwood’s relationship staying spicy in the bedroom to field a team.

Like the fields surrounding it, it is possible to find a gold nugget around Bendigo every now and then, but you’ve got to look really hard.

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Liam Picken could have been a Magpie. Instead he was allowed to keep his soul.

COLLINGWOOD

Zone: Western Border

B: ??? — ??? — ???

HB: ??? — ??? — ???

C: ??? — Liam Picken — ???

HF: ??? — ??? — ???

F: ??? — Jeremy Cameron — ???

R: ??? — ??? — ???

Int: ??? — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Magpies would be screwed:

No wonder Eddie hates zones.

The Western Border region is a wasteland of footy talent, mostly because very few people live there anymore.

Collingwood did have a pretty solid metro zone in the north-east of Melbourne, but it wasn’t enough to get them close to a premiership in the zone years.

On second thoughts, maybe we should bring them back…

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Tom McDonald. So that’s what he looks like.

ESSENDON

Zone: Wimmera

B: Kyle Cheney — Tom McDonald — Oscar McDonald

HB: Darcy Tucker — David Astbury — ???

C: Jake Lloyd — Matt Rosa — Seb Ross

HF: ??? — Michael Close — ???

F: ??? — ??? — ???

R: ??? — ??? — ???

Int: ??? — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Bombers would be screwed:

Much like the Western Border, the Wimmera is a bit of a black hole of talent even with Horsham in the region. Which is, appropriately, a bit of a hole itself.

The Bombers also relied on a strong metro zone, taking a large chunk north of the Maribyrnong River.

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Jordan Lewis and Luke Hodge celebrating never having to play for Fitzroy.

FITZROY

Zone: Hampden

B: Easton Wood — ??? — Billie Smedts

HB: Martin Gleeson — ??? — Gary Rohan

C: Luke Hodge — Jordan Lewis — Lewis Taylor

HF: Darcy Lang — ??? — Dean Towers

F: Jackson Merrett — ??? — ???

R: ??? — Ben Cunnington — Zac Merrett

Int: ??? — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Lions would be screwed:

“But Luke Hodge is from Colac” I hear you scream indignantly. “They play in the Geelong league!”

Yeah, well, they didn’t used to, alright? So shut your mouth.

The Hampden league has had its moments, with names like Jonathan Brown, Paul Couch and Alistair Lord all coming from the south-west, and while the area is completely and utterly football insane, the talent just hasn’t been there in recent years.

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Dallas Willsmore. He’s a big deal in Walpeup-Underbool. Probably.

RICHMOND

Zone: Sunraysia

B: ??? — ??? — ???

HB: ??? — Robbie Tarrant — ???

C: ??? — Sam Kerridge — Dallas Willsmore

HF: Ben McGlynn — ??? — ???

F: ??? — ??? — ???

R: ??? — ??? — ???

Int: ??? — ??? — ???

How the Tigers would be screwed:

What sort of league relies almost entirely on one city for its teams?

The Sunraysia League, that’s what.

With most of their teams coming from Mildura, the population wasn’t overly diverse for the Tigers.

On top of that, their metro zone was pretty small too.

On the bright side, they got some pretty solid orange wedge action at halftime.

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The saviour. Silvio Foschini.

SOUTH MELBOURNE

Zone: Riverina

B: Zac Williams — ??? — ???

HB: Harry Cunningham — Daniel Howe — Matt Suckling

C: Isaac Smith — Jacob Hopper — Jake Barrett

HF: Dean Terlich — ??? — Jacob Townsend

F: Luke Breust — Max King — ???

R: Matthew Flynn — ??? — ???

Int: ??? — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Swans would be screwed:

Ah the Riviera. Trees. Water. Fuckin’…ducks…or something.

And not a whole lot of talent.

Not matter what Eddie says, one Jacob Hopper doesn’t make a region.

The one good thing to happen to South Melbourne – and the league – during the zone period was Silvio Foschini and his refusal to move to Sydney when the club relocated, eventually leading to court action and the abolition of zones.

In Silvio we trust.

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Chip Frawley. Nephew of Spud. Son of French Fry.

ST KILDA

Zone: Ballarat

B: James Frawley — Nathan Brown — Michael Jamison

HB: Josh Cowan — Mitch Brown — ???

C: Shaun Grigg — Brad Crouch — Nick Suban

HF: Brenton Payne — Drew Petrie — ???

F: Dan Butler — Tanner Smith — ???

R: Jordan Roughead — Matt Crouch — Liam Duggan

Int: ??? — ??? — ??? — ???

How the Saints would be screwed:

Victoria’s third biggest city has given us Tony Lockett and a tattoo to help us easily identify bogans, but couldn’t give St Kilda a premiership.

Rude.

 

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