THE obvious question coming out of Friday night’s VFL game at the QEO is what impact will a 201-point flogging at the hands of Geelong have on the Bendigo Gold’s fight for survival?
Sadly for the club, the last image of the Gold for 2013 is walking off the QEO with a scoreboard showing Bendigo’s biggest loss in its 16-year VFL history through the guises of Diggers, Bombers and now Gold.
The Gold were stiff to cop Geelong in the final round on Friday night and the result was always going to be ugly.
The young Bendigo players were clearly at the end of their tether after what has been a long and arduous season for many in their first year in the VFL system.
While the Gold have been the easybeats of the competition and had nothing left in the tank, Geelong under coach Matthew Knights has been the dominant side of the VFL and had players hungry to break into the club’s AFL team.
The Cats went in for the kill early and showed no mercy, kicking 10 goals in the first quarter, six in the second, 11 in the third and eight in the last.
As demoralising as it must have been for Bendigo – not that you would have known post-match with the way the players banded together in a sign of the club’s strong culture – you couldn’t help but admire the slick Cats.
However, the game was a glaring example of why it’s going to be a continued struggle on field for the Gold if the club survives into 2014.
Geelong fielded 16 AFL-listed players – all professional footballers – against a Bendigo team of kids where football comes second behind work or study.
But that’s the unbalanced nature of the VFL where there’s a combination of stand-alone VFL teams, AFL clubs with stand-alone teams, and aligned AFL-VFL teams, all with varying levels of AFL Victoria funding assistance and salary caps.
Bendigo has never been able to compete as a stand-alone VFL club, with the combined record of the Bendigo Diggers (1998-2002) and now Gold standing at seven wins from 113 games.
I support a VFL presence in Bendigo and the opportunity it provides players to compete in the second best competition in Australia and bring star-studded teams like Geelong to the city, but results like Friday night do nothing for the brand of the VFL or the reputation of the Bendigo Gold.
Unless the Gold can secure the much-needed revenue stream in the way of a home facility to generate an income like any other club, and AFL Victoria reassesses its funding structure to balance it in favour of a club like Bendigo that is the only stand-alone club without a gaming venue to bring in dollars, how will the Gold afford to recruit the experienced players they so desperately crave to compete against teams like Geelong that are stacked with professional players?
The positive out of Friday night was a crowd of more than 2000 at the QEO in a strong show of support and more membership pledges, but when it’s all said and done, football is a results driven business and scores like 35.17 (227) to 3.8 (26) further highlight why the Gold’s future is on a knife-edge.