The Mirror News

AFNL turned upside down

Senior Leagues Review draft recommendations released

AFL Gippsland has taken the first steps towards addressing issues of competitive imbalance and club sustainability, with the release of the Gippsland Senior Football Leagues Review draft recommendations.

The independent review committee last week presented its draft findings to the region’s football and netball leagues and clubs.

Proposed changes included the creation of a new league in West Gippsland and structural changes to the Alberton and the Ellinbank and District football and netball competitions.

The review committee recommended AFNL clubs Dalyston, Kilcunda-Bass, Korumburra-Bena and Phillip Island join EDFL clubs Bunyip, Cora Lynn, Garfield, Koo Wee Rup and Nar Nar Goon in the newly-formed West Gippsland Football Netball Competition in 2017.

Three of the region’s leagues – Gippsland League, North Gippsland Football Netball League and Mid Gippsland Football League and Netball Association – remain unchanged.

AFL Gippsland region general manager and review committee chair Travis Switzer said detailed consultation and research showed there was a clear and urgent need for structural change at the western end of the region.

“A lot of research went into on-field results from the past seven years, as well as growth areas and projected growth areas in Gippsland and the impact that will have and is already having on football and netball clubs,” Switzer said.

“There are 27 clubs across the Alberton and Ellinbank and District competitions, and the close geographical nature of these leagues led the review committee to the possibility of three nine-team competitions.”

Switzer said numerous models were considered, including the introduction of a divisional system with promotion and relegation. He stressed the need for flexibility of league structures in order to protect the future of clubs.

“We looked at a whole range of options, but none of them were as viable when other circumstances such as travel time and distances were factored in,” he said.

“These changes are recommended for 2017, and there will be consultation processes in place to consider further refinement in future seasons.

“It is important to note these are only draft recommendations at this stage and we are urging all stakeholders to take the opportunity to provide feedback over the next six weeks.”

Netball Victoria eastern regional development manager and review committee member Judi Buhagiar said the viability of netball clubs and competitions had been taken into consideration.

“We are happy with the process to this point and we are looking forward to receiving the feedback from the clubs and leagues,” Buhagiar said.

“It’s important that our clubs and stakeholders have a thorough read of the report and provide the review committee with feedback during the next six weeks.

“We look forward to continuing our work with AFL Gippsland and our clubs and leagues to improve football and netball in Gippsland.”

AFNL director of special events and sponsorship Dean Cashin commented to The Mirror: “The AFNL board met with AFL Gippsland last Wednesday to receive a presentation of the proposed restructure of Alberton and Ellinbank Leagues.  Whilst the board fully understands that individual clubs may envisage they will improve their football and netball standard by moving to another league, the changes proposed to Alberton are large, reducing us from 12 to nine teams, assuming that Nyora are in agreement with the change.

“There are many issues for the board to consider, including how it will affect juniors, umpires and trainers. The board met Wednesday night after the presentation, however were not given the AFL report until Friday. The board will consider what it says in the report and listen to feedback that undoubtedly will be received from our clubs before making further comments.”

Foster Football Netball Club president Mal Davies told The Mirror that he was concerned that the new league set up would reduce the standard of local football and netball which has been pretty high in recent years.

“The standard improved with the western end sides from the old Bass Valley League and it will certainly drop without them.

“It will also be harder to recruit players from Melbourne or get former players who have left to come down and play in what would end up being a minor league.

“It will do nothing to address the shortage of junior players in the under age groups either.”

A Fish Creek spokesman said on Monday that the general feeling at present is that Fish Creek Football Netball Club will not be greatly disadvantaged by the changes and should be more competitive in the future with the larger clubs gone.

Stony Creek vice president Bill Pratt said he was surprised with a couple of the decisions that left IK in the local league, and he felt for Nyora being sent this way and split up from their arch rival Poowong. That, he said, was bizarre.

The club will meet this week, but Pratt said he was fairly comfortable with the changes that have been made.

Toora joint president Trent Crawford said the Magpies were really happy with the review and felt a really good job had been done.

He said it was strange that Nyora were put in the local league, but that (Nyora) would be the only long distance to travel.

With less travel in the league he felt that some families might come back to football which would help Toora’s numbers in the juniors.

Inverloch-Kongwak co-president Bruce Clark said I-K would prefer to be in the new West Gippsland competition rather than stay in Alberton for a number of reasons, chief among these being the big gates and canteen profits resulting from local rivalry games and a better standard of football for all their football and netball sides.

MDU coach Mark Lafferty wasn’t overly fussed by the new restructure, but was concerned that the standard of the league would drop off a fair bit. He felt the standard of football in the AFNL over the last few years has been high and the loss of some of the key top sides would make a huge difference.

Retaining some of the young guns could also be a problem in the future if they wanted to play in a higher standard competition.

Tarwin co-president Anthony Hullick told The Mirror that Tarwin would be having a committee meeting this week to discuss all aspects of the review and the effect on the club. “It appears to be a return to the old Alberton league minus a couple of clubs since the reformation of the Tarwin Football/Netball Club in 1988.

“At this stage, we are happy to be playing most of the clubs that we have a healthy rivalry with, but not sure about losing all of our western end competitors (which could  include Inverloch/Kongwak). Our preference would have been to retain some western end clubs. Being at the end of an eastern based competition could be good or bad, time will tell. There has been some discussion about the standard of football dropping off, but the points system/salary cap combination will determine that for all competitions. The Nyora decision does baffle somewhat and should be looked at if the review panel are true to their objectives.

“Between both the senior and junior reviews, the junior review is still the most concerning result.”

Clubs and leagues have until Friday March 11 to provide feedback on the draft recommendations, before the AFL Gippsland Commission makes its final decision

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