By Michael Giles
AFTER you’ve been hit on the head four or five times with an axe, you’d want to be trying to dodge the next swing.
Not so the AFL and AFL Victoria.
Having witnessed the failure of a series of football reviews locally, they’re proposing yet another one, only this time they’re “kicking the can down the road” as they say, in an attempt to avoid political scrutiny.
Recently the AFL and AFL Victoria announced the development of a strategic plan for all of Gippsland, encompassing the surrounding areas as well, called G25, indicating that the new arrangements and structure will be in place for 2025 and beyond.
They’re also prepared to make short-term changes as well, they say, with the initial G25 recommendations to be released by the end of June 2020 in preparation for the 2021 season.
But don’t hold your breath for significant change there.
So, nothing will happen until the 2021 season. In fact, we’re told that AFL Victoria will attempt to block any mutual arrangements between clubs and leagues, that would see individual club’s needs accommodated, in the meantime.
No one disputes that football in Gippsland could do with some changes but there’s got to be a better way to encourage the clubs to embrace the changes, because ultimately it will be their decision.
Last Saturday we saw a wonderful celebration of country football and netball at Tarwin Lower but the success of the day wallpapered over one of the main cracks affecting country football, and the code generally, and that’s the lack of numbers coming into the junior stream.
While MDU had a talented group of top-age kids, their opponents, Foster, presumably the second-best Under 18 team in the comp, could barely field a full side.
And if the AFL doesn’t think that’s a problem, they only need only have noticed the first goal of the day kicked by the young Foster side, slotted in expert fashion by the younger brother of Port Adelaide first-year sensation, Xavier Duursma, young Zane Duursma.
Now, we don’t want to be putting undue pressure on Zane to follow in his brother’s footsteps but generally, this is where the big AFL’s talent is being sourced, as displayed by Sam Flanders, kicking four goals in Gippsland Power’s losing effort against Oakleigh Chargers, but sure to be drafted later this year.
As well as working with the clubs to make changes, and sweetening the deal with serious project funding, the latest review must put junior development at the top of the list for action.