By Michael Giles
THE ALBERTON Football Netball League has been left in a precarious position as a result of the so-called restructure of local leagues that took place ahead of the 2017 season.
And there doesn’t appear to be an obvious solution to the problem, being voiced mainly by the Alberton clubs, who have fears about the sustainability of playing in a ring-a-ring-a-rosie comp, possibly reduced to six teams next year.
Several of them have reportedly made representations to neighbouring leagues about what might be possible in the future and the Alberton hierarchy itself has also met with its neighbours.
And while the nearby leagues have been courteous, not wanting to cut ties in case one of their own clubs might falter, it’s a case of ‘I’m alright Jack’ at the moment.
The restructure favoured the Ellinbank, Mid Gippsland, North Gippsland, new West Gippsland comps and the major league, Gippsland, very well either leaving them as 10-team leagues or establishing them as 10-team competitions at the expense of Alberton.
It’s the ideal number for them but football and netball is at risk in South Gippsland while Alberton has seven, possibly six clubs – a Mickey Mouse situation.
Not that everything is hunky dory elsewhere.
It has been widely reported that Drouin wants to get out of the Gippsland league, clubs are struggling for junior numbers, to remain competitive at other levels and there have been rumblings from the clubs in the new West Gippsland comp that it has lacked the community of interest that existed before.
That, of course, will develop as the league becomes established.
But what of Alberton?
Local league officials have been stoic in talking up viability, while reporting on a successful season, but with Thirds effectively down to five teams, there’s a risk that the young players and families that remain will lose interest.
Everyone knows they’re the lifeblood of the clubs.
So what can be done?
AFL Gippsland needs to do more, helping Alberton to work through the options which might include dividing the existing clubs between North Gippsland, Mid Gippsland and Ellinbank.
And by keeping the community informed.
It certainly would have helped if they’d turned up, for example, at the showpiece event of the Alberton season last Saturday.