Football legends Malcolm Blight and Campbell Brown were in Mildura last weekend, special guests at Friday night’s Sports Entertainment Night, hosted by Mildura Regional Development and SEN at the Mildura Lawns Tennis Club.
The pair hit the Mildura Golf Resort for 18 holes early Friday morning, where the ‘Weekly ‘tee’d’ up a chat about their visit and the 2021 AFL season.
“I’ve been down here many times, either traveling from Melbourne or Adelaide, and I just love being by the river,” Blight said of Mildura.
“It’s great,” Brown added.
“This is the first time I’ve stayed for a couple days and have been able to do some things.
“We’re staying on a houseboat and the speedboat has been magnificent. Just being able to go into town and have some dinner, get down to the golf club, it’s fantastic.”
While it was great to discuss Mildura and their experiences in the area, when you’re face-to-face with Malcolm Blight and Campbell Brown it’s virtually impossible not to talk footy.
With six VFL/AFL premierships and a host of other accolades between them, who better to ask about the AFL season and the current state of the game?
“The season’s been great and the new rules have really impacted the game in a positive way. Scoring’s back and we’re seeing the key forwards kick goals again, which is positive,” Brown said.
And Blight agrees.
“It’s fantastic − Harry McKay, Aaron Naughton, Oscar Allen, they’re all tall young kids and they’re letting them play footy again,” he explained.
“For years they’ve been stifled because of the way the game has been played, so to see the way the game’s being played now and to have big men back is brilliant.”
Blight also added that he believes the game is far more athletic now than it ever has been.
This has added to the amount of pressure players are under from their opposition each week.
“The athlete gets better every year and this means the bloke coming at you is also more imposing, so it puts more pressure on you,” Blight said.
“It’s remarkable how the best players in the competition still find a way to get the ball and have an impact though – players like Bontompelli, Petracca and Fyfe, they still find a way to be really good.”
While the style of the game seems to be in as good a spot as it ever has been, one of the main negatives of this season so far has been injuries.
This is something Brown believes needs to be assessed.
“The injuries this year are a bit of a concern. I hope it’s just a case of guys going back to full quarters after playing shortened quarters during COVID-19, but it’s something which should be looked at,” he said.
“You want your best players playing each week but there is an alarming number of guys on the sidelines.”
While it’s still early in the campaign, when asked to pick a possible premier, Brown and Blight did not hesitate.
The Demons and Bulldogs, as well as Port Adelaide and Richmond were the teams listed, with the former sides being the favourites.
“When the Bulldogs and Melbourne were both undefeated I knew one or both of them would make the Grand Final, it’s a guarantee,” Blight said.
“Melbourne have surprised me a little bit,” Brown added.
“I knew they had a decent list but I certainly didn’t anticipate them being undefeated at this stage.
“I really like the Dogs though − they remind me of the Hawks teams I played in, they’ve got the brand to be able to win the flag.”