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FORMER Bendigo Gold coach Aussie Jones has taken a swipe at the region in the wake of Tyrone Downie’s rookie drafting by the Gold Coast Suns.
Jones says his time in Bendigo coaching the Gold was plagued by what he felt was the best interests of players not being served - be it stringent Bendigo Football League finals eligibility regulations for Gold players, or a lack of encouragement from local clubs to promote their players to the VFL and test themselves at the next level.
Jones also cites the recruiting last year of Downie from Kangaroo Flat as one of the many hurdles the Gold faced when the club was required to justify its signing of the then 25-year-old.
But a year on, Downie is now an AFL-listed player at the Gold Coast following a season in which he was the Gold’s leading goalkicker.
“I’m aware of parents and coaches who advised their sons to stay away from elite football to suit their own needs, and not those of the players,” Jones said.
“But you only have to look at a club like Golden Square and its success.
“How many of those players have played VFL football... it’s a lot.
“At one stage Square pushed or promoted their kids to go to a higher level and in doing that, if you have the right culture, that kid is going to thank you for it and come back and want to play at your footy club.
“That’s one example... I don’t believe there’s a lot of that going on elsewhere.”
Following Downie’s drafting by the Suns on Wednesday, Jones says he finds it tough to comprehend that a year ago the Gold had to justify the signing of the former Kangaroo Flat coach in a written letter.
“We shook our head at the time about all the fuss over a bloke who was that good of a player and wanted to play VFL football and why it was such a big issue,” Jones said.
“At the end of 2013 people were saying we needed experience, we needed older heads, but when we got them we were questioned over why we did it.
“We were strong on our decision and really keen to get Tigga and now look at him... he’s on a plane on Thursday afternoon to the Gold Coast with an AFL opportunity.”
While the Gold had to explain their reasons for recruiting Downie and another experienced Roo in Mitch Hough, Kangaroo Flat coach Jason Stevens said Downie went with his best wishes to the VFL club.
“Tigga provided fantastic loyalty to our club over seven years and when he made his decision to go to the next level, there was no issue from my perspective,” Stevens said.
Downie was one of the stories of Wednesday’s rookie draft with his selection from the Bendigo Gold - just over three months after the VFL club folded.
Downie’s drafting prompted a mixed reaction on Twitter from Jones.
As well as congratulating Downie, Jones also tweeted “The pressure must now be on those in positions of power in footy in #Bendigo to step down from their role, stale views = #opportunity lost.”
Jones didn’t single anyone out on Thursday when contacted to clarify his tweet, but said he felt “concerned for the 15, 16 and 17-year-olds in the region because of old-fashioned views.”
Jones is now the director of coaching with Elinbank District club Cora Lynn.