Light us up: chair calls for BFNL night grand finals

By Richard Jones

BACK in the early part of the 2011 season then BFNL chairman Paul Byrne pressed for a QEO grand final to be played under lights within three years.

Eight years on from Mr. Byrne’s heartfelt plea we’re still contesting the Big Dance on a September Saturday afternoon.

So maybe that’s how things will play out right into the 2020s unless, of course, the AFL trendsetters decide on a night grannie.

Or even a twilight one. Then everyone will have a crack.

But it’s interesting and informative to look back at what Byrnesy had to say.

He believed night footy would play an increasingly big part in the BFNL fixturing.

Kangaroo Flat and Maryborough have regularly hosted home and away games under lights in the early and late rounds of a season when the weather is reasonable.

Kyneton and Castlemaine followed suit in 2017 and there have been inter-league clashes played under the QEO lights in May in recent seasons, as well as night play-offs in the first fortnight of a four-week BFNL finals stretch.

And as Mr. Byrne pointed out in an in-depth interview in 2011 Bendigo’s population continued to surge.

“Everyone talks about Bendigo in 25 years. In the past five years we’ve had Strathfieldsaye, Epsom and Ascot built, and Maiden Gully is growing all the time. Huntly continues to expand.

“By the time we get to 2036 (25 years after Mr. Byrne’s 2011 comments were published) we’re going to need more facilities and I would think we’ll certainly need another major football and netball ground,” he said.

“The QEO holds a lot of emotional value to everyone and it’s a great ground. All the discussion is around ‘we need to fix the QEO’ and that’s fine.

“But there’s never been a discussion about perhaps our city moving forward needs another showcase ground.

“I’m not saying I’m right or wrong. All I’m saying is there needs to be discussions about these issues,” the BFL chairman stated.


ADVERTISER scribes Adam Bourke and Luke West were divided about the merits of a night grand final.

West emphasised he’d never really liked watching footy under lights at the QEO.

Remembering this was penned for their weekly column in April 2011 before the new lights kicked in, Westy stressed it was too hard to see what was happening on the swimming pool side of the ground.

Particularly from the grandstand or the pressbox.

“And what happens if it’s a cold and rainy night?” he asked.

“The QEO’s the last place I would want to be on such a night even if it was a grand final which was being played.”

The Advertiser footy expert also raised another very valid point. “There’s every chance, a real likelihood, that a BFNL night grand final would go up against a televised AFL preliminary final,” he wrote.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking Paul for his ideas --- a lot of what he said made sense --- but I’m not sold on a night grand final for the QEO just yet.”

Bourkey was willing to give the scheme a trial.

“I don’t know if it’s inevitable but the concept is certainly worth discussing,” he wrote.

“If it doesn’t work we can go back to the Saturday afternoon schedule. The league can just cruise along and be happy with the good crowds it gets for each grand final.

“Or it can dare to dream and maybe set a benchmark for country footy grand finals. Sport is a business and you have to move with the times.”


TURNING to the round 2 match-ups and Maryborough coach Matt Aston wanted his Magpies to replicate the intensity they showed with a 22-point win over the Hawks at Canterbury Park.

The Pies and Aston were gearing up for their Rd. 2 home clash under lights against Kangaroo Flat.

But they faced some major team changes. Maryborouh games record holder Glenn Chadwick who booted three goals against the Hawks was unavailable.

Mitchell Kennedy had flown away on an overseas trip while an injury cloud hovered above skipper Luke Bucknall.

After Flat had thumped Castlemaine by 121 points in Rd.1

Aston had match-up concerns with Roos’ gun spearhead Justin Maddern.

“We know he slotted 10 against the Maine so we could use Cameron Skinner, who held Gretgrix to two last week, or maybe either Lachlan Woodward or Tyson MacIlwain,” said Aston.

“Maddern has been our main concern. I don’t believe he can be stopped outright so our big focus will be to limit the ball getting to him,” said the coach.

The Magpies and Roos had built up a massive rivalry over the previous three seasons.

Biggest margin in the six battles between the clubs 2008-2010 had been Flat’s 25-point win in Rd. 6 2010.

In June 2008 Maryborough had squeaked home by one point.

“History shows that it’s going to be close so, hopefully, we can get away to a good start. And hopefully by Saturday evening we’ll be two matches, two wins,” said a chirpy Flat coach Murray Collins.


MEANWHILE Gisborne coach Luke Saunders wasn’t buying into talk that his Bulldogs could be the ones providing the biggest challenge to the Golden Square juggernaut.

On the back of an impressive opening round 43-point win over Strathfieldsaye the Graveyard Dogs were looking good.

But Saunders wasn’t buying into any early-season hype.

Mind you, he’d been pretty handy himself. The ‘Rolls Royce’ bagged seven goals, playing deep inside the forward half the whole day.

It was his biggest personal haul since Rd. 17 in 2006 when he bagged 10 against North City in Ballarat.

Saunders was busy again in Rd. 2 slotting five goals against Castlemaine. Darren Farrugia and Ben Sonogan also snared five in the Dogs’ massive 108-point win over Castlemaine.

The Graveyard Dogs, Square and Maryborough were all unbeaten after two rounds seven seasons ago with Sandhurst and Kangaroo Flat rounding out the top five with 1-1 records.

Still on the goalkicking scene, and Storm’s key forwards Sam Mildren and Lachie Sharp booted six each against Kyneton as Strathfieldsaye restricted Kyneton to just five majors.

Maryborough’s Ben Jackson also snared six majors as the Magpies beat Kangaroo Flat by 11 points. Lachlan Woodward added four while Harry Maddern landed five goals for the Roos.


All this was new ground for me. I’ve now read all the relevant old Addy files at the Bendigo library as we’d been in the Middle East in April-May of 2011.

Never mind the opening weeks in the Syrian conflict --- and the definite heart stopper of a military machine gun pointing at your little mini-bus on a highway outside Damascus --- there was the big problem of opening an internet Victorian newspaper file in Iran.

A huge cloud including warnings in the Farsi language descended down the hotel’s screen. Thankfully, the savvy lads at an Internet café down a little Tehran side street could do the job for you and bust the computer security system.

For $US4 or so. American currency is used worldwide, no matter whether the people in power despise Washington, or not.

Back home after the BFNL’s third round Gisborne, Square and Maryborough remained unbeaten. South was fourth with a 2-1 record.

Maddern led the goal-kicking following a 10-goal haul in the Flat’s 30-point loss to South. Stevie Stroobants and Michael Leech nailed seven goals each for the Bloods.

Goalkicking table: Justin Maddern (KF) 10, 25; Luke Saunders (Gis) 4, 16; Darren Farrugia (Gis) 5, 15; Michael Leech (SB), 7, 14; Grant Weeks (GS) 4, 13.


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