Formed in October 1896, the Victorian Football League (VFL) is one of the oldest sporting leagues in the world rich in history and passion centered by a love of the Australian game of football. In 1896, eight leading clubs in Victoria – Melbourne, Essendon, Geelong, Collingwood, South Melbourne, Fitzroy, Carlton and St Kilda came together to form the VFL. Winter in Melbourne was dominated by football and the game had developed from a suburban game into a structured league with a legion of fans and supporters.
The VFL changed its name to the AFL in 1990, and further expansion followed in 1991 (Adelaide Crows), 1995 (Fremantle) and 1997 (Port Adelaide), coupled with a 1996 merger between the Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy, giving the competition two teams in each of WA and SA, and one team apiece in Qld and NSW.
The VFL returned to a Victorian reserves competition for the best state league footballers across Victoria. Teams included Victorian AFL reserves teams plus long-standing clubs like Port Melbourne, Williamstown and Frankston.
In 2021, a new era for the VFL began, the home-and-away season featured 22 clubs from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria in a 16-game season across 19 rounds. For the first time, six clubs from New South Wales and Queensland will join the oldest state league football competition in Australia.
COLLINGWOOD forward Mason Cox is set to wear prescription sunglasses in games this season after trialling the eyewear over the pre-season.
The American has endured a horror run with career-threatening eye injuries, requiring six different surgeries – three on his left eye, two on his right, plus cataract surgery – in the past three years.
AFL.com.au understands the AFL will need to approve the eyewear before Cox can wear them in matches in 2022.
The 30-year-old is planning to wear the sunglasses during day games and could wear them at night given the floodlights at the MCG and other grounds around the country.
Cox first required eye surgery in 2019 after an accidental poke from then Gold Coast ruckman Peter Wright resulted in a torn retina. It was during that operation that surgeons discovered his other retina was also detached, following an incident in a contest against West Coast defender Tom Barrass in the 2018 Toyota AFL Grand Final loss against West Coast.
The two surgeries left Cox practically legally blind for a short period in 2019, where he had to spend two weeks in a dark room positioned on his back for 45 minutes of every hour, unable to move or watch TV or use his phone.
Cox has been left long-sighted in his left eye and has found the sunglasses more effective in the past couple of months, after using contacts in 2020 and 2021.
While prescription eyewear is far more common in the NBA with some iconic players like Horace Grant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and, more recently, Anthony Davis wearing goggles, it hasn't been a thing in the AFL.
Only two businesses in Australia specialise in sports prescription eyewear, with Cox's sunglasses coming from Eye Sports in Colac where owner John Bradbury has been supplying prescription inserts for sportspeople since the 1990s.
It is safe to say Cox has already copped plenty of banter from his Collingwood teammates and is expecting lots of feedback from opponents and fans in 2022.
Cox isn't the only Collingwood player who needs to wear prescription eyewear to play football. The Magpies signed basketball convert Bassirou Faye to an international rookie scholarship last April, much to the shock of many in the football world.
The 202cm ruck prospect had impressed the Oakleigh Chargers in trial games last pre-season but was forced to return to Senegal due to via constraints. He has since returned to Australia, joined the Magpies and has stood out on the track with his prescription sunglasses.