Victorian AFL clubs 'have caught up' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Victorian AFL clubs 'have caught up'

By Robert Grant 15/07/2008 02:11:25 PM Comments (0)

The new-look AFL ladder is a sign that the Victorian teams have at last matched the professionalism of their elite interstate rivals, according to Hawthorn skipper Sam Mitchell.

All six non-Victorian sides lost in each of the last two rounds - something that had not occurred even once in the preceding seven years.

And Port Adelaide, Fremantle and West Coast currently occupy three of the bottom four spots on the ladder, which is led by Geelong, the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn.

Mitchell said the turnaround had been achieved only after reversing years of under-funding by Victorian clubs, which languished behind their lavishly-financed rivals.

"I think the interstate clubs got the jump in the early `90s because they took professionalism to a whole new level," Mitchell said, ahead of Saturday night's clash with St Kilda.

"It's probably taken the Victorian clubs 10 years to catch up.

"Three or four years ago the Hawks thought, if we're going to compete with opposition clubs we're going to need to change a few things.

"We actually moved out to Waverley and the Bulldogs have done something similar with their facility.

"I think we've finally been able to catch up with facilities and personnel and coaching staff.

"When I got to Hawthorn there were probably five or six footy department staff and now there's probably 15.

"When you're throwing that much resources into your footy club in the footy department in particular, you are put on a little bit more of an even playing field.

"Eventually you do find an equilibrium and we're found that now between Melbourne clubs and the interstate clubs."

Meanwhile, Mitchell said it was crucial that Hawthorn ensure all its running players were available if the side was to contend throughout the finals.

Veteran midfielder Shane Crawford has been an off and on proposition with knee tendinitis this year but Mitchell said he expected him to settle into the side for the rest of the year.

"Tendon injuries are a little bit uncertain, it's not like a hamstring where you're going to miss 21 or 24 days," he said.

"I think he'll get through the rest of this year and then have a month off and see if it recovers well over that off-season break.

"He might miss one here or one there but the challenge is going to be to string three or four games together which he hasn't been able to do over the course of this season.

"I think we really miss his run when he's not playing. There's a few guys we miss - we really miss Chance Bateman and Benny McGlynn who's still injured.

"We get those guys back it gives us a lot more run and we need that.

"You look at the premiership sides, they're all very, very good running sides and we probably need that in our game if we're going to be real contender come finals time."

Mitchell said there was a possibility Bateman and fellow midfielder Jordan Lewis (both corked quad) would be available for Saturday night's game at Telstra Dome.

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