AFL reveals radical changes to local leagues

By Mitch Guy

THE landscape of local footy and netball is set to change dramatically after AFL Gippsland released its Senior Football Netball Leagues Review Draft Recommendations last week.
The proposed changes, to be introduced in 2017, include the creation of a new league in West Gippsland and structural changes to the Alberton and 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 to form the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition in 2017.
The response to the recommendations was relatively positive, aside from one glaring criticism – Nyora’s placement in the Alberton FNL.
The Saints have been asked to switch to the Alberton league, leaving behind its long-held association with the EDFL, as well as its long-held rivalry with close neighbour Poowong.
Nyora has already stated its intentions to remain in the EDFL, while Inverloch-Kongwak is eager to join the new West Gippsland League.
The Gippsland-wide review was conducted by an independent review committee chaired by AFL Gippsland Region general manager Travis Switzer and includes football and netball development managers as well as football identities from across Gippsland.
Clubs and leagues have until Friday, March 11 to provide feedback on the draft recommendations, before the AFL Gippsland Commission makes its final decision.
The full AFL Gippsland review recommendations can be viewed on the AFL Gippsland website.
Mr Switzer said detailed consultation and research showed there was a clear and urgent need for structural change at the western end of the region.
“The number one thing clubs kept coming to us about was competitive balance and to be able to compete in the competition they’re in at senior level football and netball as well,” he said.
“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.
“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, and 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.”
Switzer said the AFL Gippsland commission is also concerned about leaving a league with eight teams, due to the potential changes in the future.
“We were really keen to see nine-team comps but that’s not to say we haven’t ruled out an eight team competition as well,” he said.
“You talk to league admins, they think nine-team comps are not too bad – 18 rounds, 16 games and two byes. A lot of clubs like byes, some don’t. We had mixed reviews.
“In a perfect world we’d have all 10-team comps but we obviously don’t have the number of clubs to make that happen.”

Netball

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,” she 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.”

More reports in this weeks edition of the Sentinel-Times