By James Brosnan

Web_j223812_firstsWONTHAGGI will host this year’s Alberton Football Netball League Grand Final on September 14.  The move to showcase the league’s biggest day on the best surface available has been well supported by the majority of the AFNL’s 13 clubs.  It is the first time that the grand final will be held outside one of Alberton’s 13 venues, breaking with years of tradition.  Other finals venues announced last Wednesday night include the Korumburra Showgrounds, Alberton West, Cowes, Toora and Tarwin.  Foster, which has been the mainstay of Alberton grand finals over the years and Inverloch which hosted the grand final in 2010 and 2011, will not see any finals action this year.

The Bass Coast Shire Council, who maintain the Wonthaggi Oval, campaigned for the opportunity to host the grand final.  Wonthaggi Power Football Netball Club will be compensated financially for the use of their facilities at an estimated figure of $2000, while the Wonthaggi and District Netball Association will also benefit for the use of their courts.  President of the AFNL John Schelling said the league was making the move with strong backing.  “It’s something that the Bass Coast shire has asked us to consider, they have certainly been very reasonable with what they are charging,” Mr Schelling said.   “It’s a brave call I suppose but really no other club had put their hand up to host it. “I think it’s a real plus as the footy finals look like it’s going to be contested mostly from teams from the western end of the league. “At the end of the day we are pleased to be able to take it to such a nice ground which is good for players, good for spectators and good for the sport in general. “To be played in a major town can also maximise the financial return and all the clubs benefit out of that.”

With four of the top five senior clubs coming from the western end of the league, the possibility of an enlarged gate taking at Wonthaggi is a key to league thinking.  Dalyston, Kilcunda-Bass, Korumburra-Bena and Phillip Island feature in the top six of each of the seniors, reserves and thirds ladders.   The top six of the A Grade netball ladder also includes Dalyston, Korumburra-Bena, Phillip Island and Inverloch Kongwak.  All four clubs feature in the top six of the league’s four netball ladders. “I think it makes a lot of sense,” Mr Schelling said.  “There are going to be people out there who don’t agree with it. “Sometimes it’s seen as a weakness to take the grand final out of a league, but we don’t see it that way, we see it as promoting the Alberton league to a greater range of people and that’s what it’s all about.” The finals series will kick off with the elimination final between third and sixth at the much maligned Korumburra Showgrounds on August 24.

The surface at the Korumburra Showgrounds, which Phillip Island nearly refused to play on in mid-July, holds no fears from the AFNL.  “There was no hesitation about the Korumburra Showgrounds we had no issue with it.  “There are no more games on there from here on so that will give them plenty of time to prepare it and have it ready to go,” Mr Schelling said.  Phillip Island will host the second semi-final between first and second in Cowes on Saturday, August 31.   Alberton West (home of the Allies) and Toora will host the two Sunday finals on August 25 and September 1 respectively. “They all had catering, which made it easy so it was just a matter of fitting the grounds around that,” Mr Schelling said. “The Allies and Toora grounds are in pretty good nick at the moment and they have done a lot of work around their facilities. “We have rewarded the clubs who have spent money on infrastructure and with the catering.  “There is hardly a club in the league that couldn’t host a final now, whereas five years ago there was probably only half the clubs that could host a final.”

The preliminary final will be held once again in Tarwin, arguably the best surface in Alberton, on September 7. Foster’s application for a night final was decided against by the AFNL – citing a number of issues.  “Certainly Foster sent an application to host a night final, but we were concerned that not enough clubs have played night football and what we would do with the netball,” Mr Schelling said.  “We also had some issues around who was going to maintain security at a night final.” Mr Schelling said Foster and Inverloch were not snubbed by the league’s finals fixtures.  “Traditionally we have played finals at Inverloch and Foster, we’re not doing that this year and those clubs are probably wondering why,” he said. “Basically it goes against the catering. “Inverloch hosted the interleague this year so they have had a share already, and they have probably done better out of that than most.”