The Mid Gippsland Football Netball League will consider its official response to the interim ‘G25 Strategy’ report into the structure of Gippsland Football at its meeting tomorrow night.

But they’re unlikely to accept its key finding, recommending all six Alberton clubs join its existing nine-team competition.

Speaking on ABC Gippsland Radio today (Tuesday, June 23), Mid Gippsland Football League publicity manager Rob Popplestone agreed it was like ‘Groundhog Day’ or ‘Back to the Future’ to be proposing a solution that had already been soundly rejected last time there was a structure review.

“One of the biggest issues we had was with all six Alberton teams joining a nine-team competition. We were happy to offer a life line to three and we were hopeful the other three could find a home somewhere else,” Mr Popplestone said.

“We thought some of our clubs might struggle under the new structure and some of their clubs too which might be what they want.”

He said the league directors had a meeting scheduled on Wednesday night at which a decision was to be made on whether to go ahead with football and netball this season but he agreed the ColganBauer report might force its way on to the agenda.

“We said we were open to any three clubs joining us, not just Alberton clubs either, to make a 12-team competition but not 15 teams.

“A lot more work needs to be done on this.”

Mr Popplestone said the issue of further travel was a big one, especially for juniors, their parents and officials putting strain on their involvement, but it wasn’t the only one.

He said it was feared that radically changing the structure of the league, making it a 15-club competition, would have unintended consequences for football and netball in the area.

Warning on recommendations

Leagues and clubs opposed to the final outcome of the G25 Strategy will have to go through the appeal process again if they want to avoid the changes proposed by AFL Victoria, via the ColganBauer review.

That was the substance of a warning issued by former AFL Gippsland Commissioner John White this week.

“Once a recommendation has been finalised in a review, you would have to appeal to the AFL to have it overturned. You can’t just sit there and say you don’t like it.”

He said on ABC Radio on Tuesday that Gippsland was a difficult region to manage with its large area and aging demographic but that the plan to merge the Alberton and Mid Gippsland leagues was an attempt to preserve traditional rivalries in a changing landscape.

He also suggested a possible merger of the Ellinbank and West Gippsland leagues might be revisited despite the fact that the ColganBauer review wanted “to maintain their heritage”, an interesting comment given the league only restarted in 2017.