As the 80's dawned the VFL further grew as the 'premier' competition to be playing in, and hence more and more of the WAFL's best players were looking towards heading east.
East Perth Club President Jim Leahy observed, "Our prognosis for Western Australian football is that it is destined for second class status because of the continual loss of quality players to Victoria."
Hence at the end of the 1980 season East Perth put in an application to join the VFL.
Below is a portion of that application, dated October 15, 1980. You'd have to say East Perth's thinking was not only a few years ahead of the 1987 birth of the West Coast Eagles, but also looked at the ramifications of such a decision instead of ignoring them.
However despite the foresite shown by East Perth, the VFL declined the application returning it without comment giving the impression it was beneath their dignity. The reality though was they were already planning an interstate expansion of their league - one which however did not look at incorporating the traditions of the other football states but rather was more motivated by self-interest.
25 years on we see many of the traditional VFL clubs are struggling, and the traditions and history of state leagues prior to the AFL are now considered of little worth by the majority and are only given scant consideration by the AFL through token entries in the 'Hall of Fame' - as if their existance meant nothing to the current make up of the national league.
1. Admission of the East Perth Football Club to the Victorian Football League is practicable within two or three years upon the following considerations:
1.1 The invitation of a second West Australian team into the competition at the same time.
1.2 The benefits that will accrue to the Victorian Football League and its existing constituent clubs and
1.3 The benefits that will accrue to the game of Australian Football and to its followers within Western Australia.
2. The invitation of a second W.A. team into the V.F.L. is proposed so that regular continuity of competition between an even number of teams can be sustained, and so that one V.F.L. match can be played in Perth each week.
3. The concept is of 14 teams playing against each other twice in a 26-week competition preceding the finals, to be played in Melbourne.
4. The two West Australian teams would play one week at home and one away, meeting each other twice in Perth, and with both teams domiciled, for V.F.L. purposes, at the one ground.
5. West Australian interest in V.F.L. football is already at a high level and it is considered the regular participation by local teams would attract crowds at least commensurate with the averages on Victorian grounds.
6. The club proposes that consideration be given to the prospect of playing the V.F.L. games in Perth on Sundays for two pertinent reasons; The introduction of direct telecasts, And the interests of the W.A.F.L.
7. Transport and accommodation costs of the two teams travelling interstate each week are not considered a deterrent. They could be supplied as a direct contra for T.V. rights to the visiting teams' home State, or as an offset to charges for such rights.
8. W.A. participation in the manner planned will not only excite a higher public interest in V.F.L. in W.A., but will also ensure to the Victorian public that the game they follow will continue to bring to them the very best of interstate footballers, some of whom, under today's system, are never seen on Melbourne grounds.
9. Clubs of the V.F.L. have already shown a concerned awareness of the problems put upon them by the eternal search for footballers. Their genuine efforts to overcome them in recent discussions indicate a concern similar to our own. We believe that the alternative we now offer provides a far better remedy than any other yet produced.
10. The internal benefits to accrue to Victoria from a true national competition conducted by the V.F.L. might well be exceeded by the Australia-wide interest that could be promoted. Interstate TV rights - as distinct from contra, or offset deals,could be an added bonus for instance.
11. As State participation is enlarged national following will grow as will direct interest by all the interstate media, newspapers, radio and T.V.
12. Put on trial for, say two years as a test of the worth of national competition, it would provide all of the answers to the formation, administration and promotion problems of a fully national competition under the V.F.L. banner and control.
14. The football-following public in W.A. would be offered the best of two worlds on their own doorsteps. However there must be a legitimate query as to the resultant effects upon the W.A.F.L. competition and its future.
15. We dealt in earlier references with the prospects for the future of the W.A.F.L. competition, and repeat our belief that untreated for the existing malady it is due for second-class status at some time in the future.
16.To ignore the need for betterment and to deny the prospects of a national competition ultimately extending to W.A. would only hasten that future day.
17. It is therefore necessary to examine the possible effects of such a competition, introduced with W.A. participation, against the relative effects of any other development, or the continued status quo.
18. East Perth has no doubt whatsoever that the benefits of its proposal will easily outweigh any potential harm. Clearly the game of football in W.A., as an institution, will gain considerably, and clearly the participating clubs will be placed in a position from which they, too, may gain.
19. The effect upon non-participating clubs of those now in the W.A.F.L. would be no more than careful planning produces. Healthy and virile competition would still exist, probably without the heavy financial burdens of today.
20.Should EIGHT teams remain in the W.A.F.L. competition significant public support for premiership matches would continue.
21. Moreover it is our confirmed view that any true assessment of the total situation must lead to the conclusion that whatever the influence of W.A. participation in the V.F.L. it would never be so damaging as to allow today's trends to continue.
22. The advantages to W.A. in brief
22.1 It would end forever the free flow of talented W.A. footballers to the Eastern States, and particularly to Melbourne. They would be able to join the V.F.L., remain in W.A., and play before home crowds.
(obviously, considerable work would have to be done in establishing clearance regulations applicable to the new situation; boundary rights would need to be defined vis-a-vis the V.F.L. teams in W.A., and the clubs of the W.A.F.L. etc., etc.)
22.2 It would bring to the West Australian public a standard of football of national quality and a true sense of participation in a national competition.
22.3 It would not deprive W.A.F.L. clubs in a big loss of following, and financial debits would outweigh the credits to be gained from reduced player-commitments.
(East Perth would propose that V.F.L. games played in this State should be conducted on Sundays, thus providing the many thousands of potential followers now otherwise engaged on Saturdays, with the opportunity to watch top-class football, and also avoiding a direct clash with the W.A.F.L.)
22.4 (Furthermore, East Perth would suggest that the two clubs admitted to the V.F.L. should also remain in the W.A.F.L. competition on Saturdays, fully involved in League, Reserves and Colts competitions as they are today. Problems of ground usage and allocation would have to be dealt with, but we can see a few alternatives, some of which would provide a spur to public interest in the W.A.F.L. Competition.)
In summary -
Western Australia as a State will benefit immensely from the participation of local teams in the V.F.L.
Football throughout Australia will successfully negotiate its first step toward the establishment of a true National competition.
Western Australia will retain, within the State, the top football talent currently being drained interstate.
Football will retain its position of pre-eminence as the major sports interest of the West Australian (and Australian) followers.
Clubs of the W.A.F.L. will not face the risks of today of losing top footballers to the V.F.L.
Public interest in, and following of, the W.A.F.L. will remain at a very high level with a reduction in commitments of the kind that are now driving most clubs toward insolvency.
We appreciate that all of the foregoing touches only lightly upon the total ramifications of the proposal. A great deal of homework has been done, but considerable study and negotiation is necessary to ensure its successful implementation.
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