AFL boss speaks out over attempts to re-write 153 years of history

Former Geelong president Colin Carter's idea could throw the history of the AFL into a whole new light.

Gillon McLachlan speaks during an AFL press conference.
Gillon McLachlan was quizzed about a suggestion to include the VFA years as part of the history of the AFL. (Photo by Martin Keep/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images) (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

As far as the record books will show, what we now know as the AFL began in 1897 with eight clubs - Essendon, Carlton, Collingwood, St Kilda, Fitzroy, South Melbourne, Geelong, and Melbourne. However those history books could be re-written if a former Geelong president gets his way.

The VFL, which would go on to become the AFL in 1990, was established when the aforementioned eight teams decided to break away from the Victorian Football Association and form their own league. However Colin Carter, former Geelong president and league commissioner, wants the league's history to extend back a further few years.

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In his new book, Football's Forgotten Years, Carter argues the VFA seasons contested before the split to the VFL/AFL should be counted as part of the code's history. The VFA was established in 1870, and Carter believes that should be the year recognised as the official starting point of Australian football.

Such a move would have a telling impact on the premiership tally, with Carlton's tie with Essendon broken by the inclusion of the Blues' six VFA premierships, lifting their total to 22. Essendon would be elevated to 20 premierships, while Geelong would leapfrog Collingwood into third with 17 - one more than both the Magpies and Melbourne.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan was in attendance for the launch of the book, but humorously baulked when quizzed on his thoughts about Carter's push to include the VFA years in the history books. McLachlan said he had no issues with the idea, but it would be up to historians of the game to decide if and when such a change would occur.

“I am not here today to confirm Colin’s thesis … but nor am I here to dispute his conclusions,” McLachlan said. "That’s for our historians, our clubs to examine closely and no doubt expand the debate.”

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan facing key issue before departure

Meanwhile, McLachlan likely has a more pressing issue in his hands - the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement for players. McLachlan said it is hard to predict how the negotiations will unfold.

The CBAs are among several pressing issues that forced McLachlan to delay his departure from the AFL. He was supposed to leave at the end of last season, but that was pushed back to Gather Round on April 13-16 in Adelaide.

Asked if he would like to leave the AFL with joint men's and women's CBAs, McLachlan replied: "it would be nice to be done, but it takes what it takes. Those discussions are beginning in earnest. The PA have had data to process, to be worked through over the summer and there are meetings scheduled.

"If they were a joint deal, it would make sense. The right deal is a fair deal for male and female athletes and if they're separate to make it fair, that's OK as well."

Gillon McLachlan listens to a question during a press conference ahead of the 2022 AFL Grand Final.
Gillon McLachlan will step down as AFL CEO once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached with players. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images) (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Another major issue still on McLachlan's desk is the investigation into racism allegations at Hawthorn. The AFL had hoped it would have had the findings by last Christmas.

"It's an independent panel and we therefore don't have a lot of control over the timing," he said. "I don't want to put pressure on that.

"Time is important and hopefully we get something back in February."

Asked about his successor, McLachlan said that process was "playing out". He was likewise non-committal on the perennial question of whether the grand final will be played at night.

"It (a decision) will be done in March or April, I'm sure," he said.

With AAP

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