I noted with interest and disappointment some editorial and comment in the reports from local newspapers this week regarding the lack of attendance and support of AFL Gippsland to the Alberton Football Netball League’s finals series and the league in general.
There is a fairly simple explanation; only AFL Gippsland’s Regional General Manager, Travis Switzer, and Commission Chair, Brian Quigley, were invited to the grand final and league vote count and these invitations were explicitly non-transferable, meaning other representatives from AFL Gippsland were unable to attend on their behalf.
As they both had other invites and engagements with leagues that are members of the AFL Gippsland regional administration centre, they have a duty to attend those events first.
As a Commissioner I attended a good portion of every Alberton FNL final this year, while fellow Commissioner Greg Maidment attended the second semi-final after a verbal invitation from the league president, but we were not officially asked to participate.
There were also no invitations extended to locally-based football development manager Chelsea Caple, who has put an extraordinary amount of work into developing our sport in the region over the past four years, including countless hours working with member clubs of the AFNL.
While there has been a period of negativity aimed at AFL Gippsland around the findings of the Gippsland senior review of 2015, the commission has maintained its support of the Alberton FNL and its clubs throughout and continues its commitment to the promotion of football at school and junior level in South Gippsland, which is its mantra.
Sustainability of clubs can only be achieved if there is a commitment to a junior program and the ability to play in a competition that allows competiveness throughout the grades.
While not ideal from an AFNL perspective this was achieved from the review and the competitive balance of all competitions in Gippsland was fantastic this year.
Moving forward, there are some big decisions to be made as we strive to maintain the sustainability of all clubs.
During my 45-odd years of playing, administrating or supporting the Alberton FNL we have seen a great deal of change with the demise of the South Gippsland, West Gippsland and Bass Valley Leagues, the amalgamation of clubs and the loss of some others.
We have even seen the re-emergence of a couple of clubs.
Change is inevitable and if we don’t embrace it then we will fail.
To my way of thinking the Alberton League has remained in name only following the loss of inaugural clubs such as Yarram and Woodside and like many we all want it to survive into the future, but ensuring the survival of all football clubs is our number one priority and that is what AFL Gippsland and its people strives to achieve.
Congratulations to all premiers of football and netball on the weekend.
John Schelling, Commissioner, AFL Gippsland.