The Mirror News

AFNL officially to join Mid Gippsland League

AFL Victoria has ticked off the G25 report and its recommendation is to amalgamate The Alberton Football Netball League into the Mid Gippsland Football Netball League competition to create a 15-club competition. 

AFNL president Barry Stride told The Mirror that he was busy studying the final recommendations by AFL Victoria, but it looked like to him that it would end up being a take-over by the Mid Gippsland League rather than an amalgamation.

The Mirror believes that after many years of bungled reviews and many, many meetings by all local club officials, the six Alberton League clubs will now feel like at least their future is assured.

If only you could turn back the clock when AFL Gippsland in their wisdom split up what was then one of the best country football leagues going around.

The new West Gippsland League has been one-sided since day one and slowly but surely the Alberton League turned into a farce, through no fault of their own.

Publicity Officer for Mid Gippsland Rob Popplestone told The Mirror that the Mid Gippsland Football League will meet this week to discuss two matters, the first one being the application of Trafalgar to leave the Mid Gippsland League to go to the Ellinbank League, and then the recommendations of the G25 report.

His understanding of the Trafalgar application would see them knocked back by the Mid Gippsland League in their attempts to leave.

At this time no other Mid Gippsland club had officially applied to leave the league.

He expected that the six Alberton League clubs would be accepted to make the proposed 15 team competition in 2021, but some clarity would be needed on the sustainability of all clubs in both leagues going forward.

G25 Overview

In the second half of 2019, AFL Victoria engaged independent consultants ColganBauer to conduct an analysis into community football in Gippsland. The analysis was to determine the appropriate operating structure, including governance and competitions, to ensure long term growth for community football in the Gippsland Region with a view for developing a strategy for football in Gippsland called the “G25 Strategy”.

The independent consultation process commenced in November 2019 and has included a series of town hall meetings, one-on-one community consultation and online meetings. The process focused on extensive engagement with the Gippsland football community. ColganBauer provided several opportunities for individuals, clubs, leagues, and participants to provide feedback and commentary on the state of football in the region.

The contents of the final report are the views and recommendations of ColganBauer and were delivered to AFL Victoria on 30 June, 2020.

AFL Victoria has reviewed the independent report and provided a response to the recommendations into Gippsland Football as part of its commitment to community football and its objective to strengthen the game in regional areas.

A focus on growing women’s football in the region and an alignment of junior/youth age bracket structure are among those recommendations considered.

The 98-page report also suggests amalgamating the Alberton Football Netball Competition into the Mid Gippsland Football Netball League competition to create a 15-club competition aimed at long-term league sustainability.

The report contains 46 recommendations for AFL Victoria.

Of those recommendations, all 46 have been identified by AFL Victoria as either worthy of implementation or already contained within an existing analysis that can be further examined in order to incorporate suggestions put forward by the report’s independent authors, Cogan Bauer.

AFL Victoria is committed to a vibrant and sustainable network of inclusive clubs and leagues across Victoria. For more than a century, Gippsland has been one of Australian Football’s strongest advocates and greatest supporters. Over many years, the region has bred, nurtured and developed some of the game’s champion coaches, players and officials.

Like many regional areas, Gippsland football faces immense challenges in maintaining its presence, its participation rate, its facilities, its leagues and its community engagement with local clubs. As a strong advocate of football’s important role in community life, AFL Victoria welcomes the report and its findings.

AFNL into Mid Gippsland League

In 2019, six teams competed in the Alberton Football Netball Competition, and nine clubs in the Mid Gippsland Football Netball League. Recommendation is to amalgamate into the Mid Gippsland Football Netball League competition to create a 15-club competition. The league structure would then become an 18 round season, with an annual rotation of home and away, followed by a top-eight finals structure.

It is forecast that the Western corridor will continue to grow, but the central and southern parts of Gippsland is going to have low/ no growth highlighting the need to strengthen central Gippsland.

The demographic and economic dynamics between the Southern Gippsland clubs and Mid- Gippsland are similar, while the dynamics in the Western Corridor are different.

The purpose would be to create league sustainability with smaller leagues with less financial security having a larger league size, will provide high protection for the league that may come from further shocks. The Mid Gippsland FNL structure is financially sound with a robust governance model that can accommodate the addition of the South Gippsland clubs and provide the opportunity for the South Gippsland clubs to be active members. The amalgamation of the two leagues under the Mid Gippsland governance of the MGFNL will improve the financial position for all members.

A final eight structure will ensure more teams play finals, increase the number of finals played to nine – which should also improve the financial health of the competition.

AFL Victoria Response

After an analysis of the league structures across the region for the 2021 season, AFL Victoria will adopt the recommendation to move the Alberton clubs into the Mid-Gippsland Football Netball League for the 2021 season. AFL Victoria see this strategy as providing long term financial and competition security for clubs in both leagues. The 2021 league format will provide an enhanced product for sponsorship and allow for an increased finals format if desired. AFL Victoria commit to working with both leagues to ensure the process is in the best interests of all clubs and stakeholders.

Junior Football

Transition all central Gippsland leagues (junior and senior) to an U14s / U17s competition model from 2021.

Leagues that would change include:

  • Traralgon DJFC: Remove U16s
  • Mid Gippsland FNL: Remove U16s and U18s, add U17s
  • North Gippsland FNL: Remove U18s, add U17s

Lower population growth in central Gippsland areas (La Trobe Valley and Wellington), along with population centralisation will impact participation levels into the future. There is not the current participation base in the Gippsland region to be able to support the existing number of clubs and grades within Gippsland at the 14 to 18 age group. The current starting grade for junior football aligns to NAB AFL Auskick and provides a pathway for players to move into and ensure players stay playing the game. 

To ensure club sustainability and alignment with the youth structures, the model needs to support clubs to field a youth competition to support the transition from the junior leagues into the senior sides by aligning to the Football Netball East Gippsland’s U14s /U17s structure across half the region, clubs will have greater ease to fill sides, given less overall age brackets, and promote greater sustainability (e.g. MGFNL’s U18s competition only had four clubs in 2019).

AFL Victoria Response

AFL Victoria endorses this recommendation and commits to seek further consultation with stakeholders regarding its adoption. AFL Victoria recognises the challenges faced with changing junior age group structures. Those challenges not only equate to numbers on the field, but also to the likelihood of participation of new players to the game. AFL Victoria will continue to work with stakeholders to determine the most appropriate outcome.

Women’s Football

To best promote and grow women’s football across the region, AFL Gippsland with AFL Victoria will work to develop a women’s football strategy specifically for Gippsland.

In 2019, there were approximately 1.1k female participants in Gippsland compared to approximately 11.5k male participants. Considering the strong community ties expressed regarding netball in Gippsland, AFL Victoria should create a Gippsland-specific women’s football strategy.

This strategy should determine how to promote best and grow women’s football while remaining mindful of netball.

AFL Victoria Response

AFL Victoria adopts this recommendation and will commence analysis into women’s football in Gippsland. Both AFL Victoria and AFL Gippsland recognise the current difficulties associated with the existing format of women’s football and acknowledges a greater strategy is needed to minimise the impact of extensive travel on new participants. AFL Victoria will work with AFL Gippsland and stakeholders to revise the format to ensure the rising needs of female football are appropriately met.The full 46 recommendations by AFL Victoria can be obtained from the AFL Gippsland website.


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