Siera can t stand modern game
Brian Sierakowski. Pic: Dione Davidson

WA football stalwart Brian Sierakowski warns that the game at AFL level has been "bastardised" and he has called on its leaders to put the Australian back in Australian Rules.

Sierakowski, who was honoured with AFL life membership at the season launch in Adelaide on Wednesday, says he barely recognises the game which he views as "80 per cent basketball, 15 per cent soccer and 5 per cent rugby".

He said community and grassroots football had become his passion and he nominated helping to establish the David Wirrpanda Foundation and his work in assisting a restructure of community football in WA over the past six years as the highlights of his time in the sport.

He also remembers the 1973 premiership with Subiaco in the WAFL more fondly than his historic 1966 premiership with St Kilda, the only flag the Saints have won.

Sierakowski's life membership, presented by his Subiaco premiership teammate and current AFL commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, marks a 50-year contribution to football at many levels since he was recruited to the Saints from Mentone as a 17-year-old in 1964 by the late Alan Schwab.

The 68-year-old, who will retire from his legal practice at the end of the month, described his time at St Kilda and the 1966 flag as a 20-year-old as "sensational", but said the Subiaco premiership had been the ideal finish to his career.

"I was then 28 years of age," he said. "I had embarked on a legal career. It was the final chapter for me in football.

"It occurred with one of my close friends, Ross Smith, and the important thing for me was to play in a premiership at the pinnacle of my career, right at the very end. How fortunate was that?"

Sierakowski still finds it remarkable that he and his premiership teammates at St Kilda are "the only 20 players ever to have won a flag".

He is concerned about the direction of the game at AFL level. "I can't stand it," he said.

"I think the game has been bastardised. It is no longer Australian Rules football.

"I am not in any way criticising the wonderful skills of the modern-day player. Their athleticism is beyond fantastic, just phenomenal.

"But it is the way that the game has been taken that really concerns me.

"I think if you speak to most old blokes, we haven't changed with the modern game. I find it very upsetting to go and watch a game of AFL football and watch these mauling packs all in one quarter of the ground.

"I find it offensive beyond belief.

"A huge amount of people and a huge amount of women watch footy today and it is entertainment. I respect that, but I don't like the way the modern game is played.

"Eighty per cent of it is basketball, 15 per cent of it is soccer. Kick it backwards, kick it sideways, hold on to the ball for the last five minutes of the game while 50 per cent of the crowd walks out of the stadium.

"Then 5 per cent of it is rugby union and holding the ball in and under for as long as you can.

"Where has Australian Rules gone? It is gone, we are a hybrid game."

Sierakowski said he took great pride in helping to establish the Wirrpanda Foundation and community football had become his passion.

Former WAFC director of pathways and competitions Grant Dorrington approached Sierakowski six years ago and asked him to help reform and stabilise the structure of community football in WA.

Sierakowski believes WA has the best community football system in Australia.

"We had to make some significant, hard decisions and a few people got rolled because we needed good leadership out in the community at a football level," he said.

"Dorro was a wonderful supporter of me. He backed me to the hilt.

"The great thing I am really getting a buzz from now is seeing community football in this State being very well led at all levels and all the affiliates.

"Everyone has an input and we are trying to strategise everything, growing the game throughout the State. I think our strategic thinking is miles in front of the other states.

"The game here at community level is growing at such a rate that we now can't keep up with grounds and facilities to cope with the numbers of kids that we have got playing the game. Women's football, for example, is growing at the rate of 40 to 45 per cent a year.

"AFL Masters football has grown nearly 125 per cent in five years. It is massive."

Sierakowski predicted the WAFL would overcome controversy surrounding club alignments with West Coast and Fremantle and that the competition could blossom again, but he urged the AFL to change direction.

"They have to rethink at the end of the day, what sort of game they want because I see there is a lot of disenchantment out there from people who follow Australian football," he said.

"It is so money orientated and so media orientated these days that it has lost its Australianism.

"Somehow, I think they are going to have to come back to that."

Asked what his involvement in the game would be 10 years from now, Sierakowski said: "I will be around the place watching my local district side, probably an old codger standing there with a walking stick."

The West Australian

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