Burley Footballs

By SHAUN PHILLIPS, - sports affairs reporter - Herald Sun

Victorian icon Sherrin is under siege from a Western Australian interloper intent on torpedoing the balls premier position in the football world.

Outbid by Sherrin for exclusive AFL rights, the maker of the Burley football is now making huge inroads in the bush and suburbs.

Burley believes it can erode Sherrins position in Victoria and eventually take over as the AFLs official ball.

At elite level, Western Bulldogs stars Paul Hudson and Tony Liberatore have given the ball the thumbs up.

If there were no markings on the ball, you wouldnt know it wasnt a Sherrin sharpshooter Hudson said on Friday after testing a Burley at Whitten Oval.

Burley has been No.1 in WA for decades and says it dominates the South Australian league as well.

It now holds exclusive rights in five major country Victorian leagues and is the preferred supplier to the Diamond Valley League.

Annual Victorian sales have soared from a few hundred three years ago, to 3000.

Burleys Warren Mills said the company had worked hard to establish itself in Victoria.

Victoria is the Mecca of Football, theres no two ways about it Mr Mills said. Weve leapfrogged Ross Faulkner to No.2 in the market.

We acknowledge that Sherrin remains a great product but we believe we are just as good.

Of course, there are non-believers. The Bendigo League signed a deal with Burley just weeks before the first game this year, and there were complaints from some of the players and coaches.

But BFL chairman Garry Whitfort said there had been no recent criticism.

Its funny, if the full-forward kicks a heap of points one week, its the balls fault. Next week he kicks eight goals and no one says a thing Mr Whitfort said.

Geelong League chief executive Phil Clohesy said there were complaints when Burley was introduced last season, but the criticism quickly dried up.

Its just the shock of the new and natural resistance to change, Mr Clohesy said. Theres no difference in the quality, but people werent used to the new ball, so they criticized it.

Mr Clohesy said the Geelong league had approached Sherrin. He described the giants attitude as disdainful.

They didnt want to know us. They acted as if there was no other competition around.

The Victorian Country Football League endorses both Sherrin and Burley.

The bush leagues say clubs are saving $10 to $15 a ball with Burley, paying about $80 compared with $90 - $95 for the top grade Sherrin KB.

Mr Mills said the Ovens and Murray league had been on board with Burley since 1999 and had been followed by Geelong, Bendigo, Gippsland-LaTrobe and Ballarine.

Sherrins exclusive three-year deal for AFL games expires at the end of 2003.
The company did not respond for requests for comment. Part of the US-owned Spalding stable, it makes its balls at Rowville.

Burley balls are made in Perth, by locally owned company, Football Specialists Australia.

The ball was introduced to Victoria 20 years ago, but wasnt taken seriously until the late 1990s when major design changes were introduced.

It was thought of as a lighter, rounder ball that floated and didnt cut through the air as the other balls did, Mr Mills said. But we had a trial with the AFL in August 1999 where Paul Hudson kicked a number of unbranded, numbered balls at the MCGand the most recent Burley came out on top. (Then AFL football operations manager) Ian Collins said we could approach the league for a licence, but then the league decided to go with one brand for AFL use and we missed out in the tender.

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