The Mirror News

AFNL’s uncertain future

Eighth team needed, but who wants to come?

THE creation of a new competition for the 2017 football netball season, to be known as the ‘West Gippsland Football Netball Competition,’ has unfortunately left the Alberton Football Netball League (AFNL) with only seven teams, following Korumburra-Bena’s successful appeal to go into the new league.

There was no ‘Plan B’ after the appeal was upheld, leaving AFL Gippsland unable now to find another team for the AFNL.

Alberton Football Netball League president Barry Stride told ‘The Mirror’ on Monday that he was appalled that a 125-year-old league had been decimated down to seven clubs and virtually left to its own devices.

Tarwin Football Netball Club co-president Anthony Hullick said he was furious with the outcome.

He said the sheer lack of support from AFL Gippsland towards the Alberton FNL was “terrible” and he had no confidence in them at all.

“They have not shown any direction for us at all. The whole process has been flawed since last January when the first recommendations came out. They didn’t have a Plan B!

“It’s been left up to club volunteers to try and fix the problem of a seven-team competition.

“If they were running my business I would sack the lot of them.

“At least it has brought the seven remaining clubs closer together, and they will all work together trying to make it work,” he concluded.

It is looking like it will be up to the AFNL to go out and try to find another club to boost its numbers next season.

If not, seven teams will be playing each other three times during next year’s season, with a final four at the end of the season.

This is far from ideal.

What clubs are out there who might consider coming to Alberton? Yarram and Woodside, who were past members of the Alberton League, do not want to come back, which leads to teams such as Mirboo North, Boolarra or Thorpdale as possible sides who would not have to travel too far.

But what do they have in common with the local league?

Another critical problem for local teams is the lack of junior footballers. Where have they all gone to? Are the youngsters about and just not choosing to playing football in favour of doing other things on their weekends?

One line of thought is to only have one junior team (probably under 17s) of a Saturday and get rid of the fourths competition. With the lack of numbers at the Allies, Toora, Foster, MDU and Allies, this could help those clubs, but would it help Fish Creek and Stony Creek who seem to have plenty of players at present?

The old Alberton League was quite willing to help out when the old Bass Valley League was in dire straits, and welcomed the likes of Inverloch-Kongwak, Dalyston and Korumburra-Bena into the league. Later on, when Phillip Island and Kilcunda Bass had nowhere to go, the Alberton League took them too.

The lack of juniors has caused a lot of problems in recent years. By contrast some of the bigger towns have had plenty of players – so many they were unable to give them regular games during the season. This problem needed fixing, but now it seems the solution has come at the expense of the remaining seven Alberton clubs.

The finals series commenced last weekend. They should be the highlight of what has been a very even and exciting season, but with the cloud hanging over the 2017 season, the finals can’t help but play second fiddle to the meetings taking place to discuss the uncertain future of the league.

Ironically, it is looking as though two of the remaining teams – Fish Creek and Foster – could well fight be fighting it out for the premiership this year and not any of the sides shortly leaving for the newly formed “bigger and better” league.

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