FAR from being the pariahs of Gippsland football and netball, the six Alberton clubs, left in the lurch by changes elsewhere in the region, are looming as its saviours.
Mid Gippsland clubs will meet via Zoom this Wednesday night to consider all the recommendations in the 98-page ‘Gippsland 2025 Strategic Plan’ (G25) however, while the option to accept all six Alberton clubs next year is on their agenda, it could be cast in a whole new light by Trafalgar’s plans.
According to the league’s media spokesman, Rod Popplestone, the Trafalgar FNC seems determined to pursue a move to the Ellinbank League whether the six Alberton clubs come across or not.
“You’d have to think that if Mid Gippsland was reduced to eight clubs, some might see the arrival of the Alberton clubs as a godsend,” Popplestone said.
“We’ll know a lot more about it after Wednesday night.”
Chief among the 46 recommendations contained in the G25 plan is item P1, an option to merge all six Alberton clubs with Mid Gippsland to form a 15-club competition, with an eight-team finals system in 2021.
But the failure of some clubs to re-emerge after COVID-19 restrictions, or go elsewhere, might be a game-changer.
The Toora Football Netball Club, which would have to travel as far as 107km to play Hill End and four clubs over 80km away including Morwell East 87, Trafalgar 83, Newborough 92 and Yallourn North 93; are fully supportive of the G25 plan.
“We’re pretty excited. It’s something we have been working on for three or four years now,” said Toora Magpies co-president Craig Jenkins.
“We’ve been liaising closely with our netballers and they’re fully on board with it as well, everyone is.
“I’m pretty confident it will go ahead now. We’ve gone to Mid Gippsland off our own bat and been communicating closely with them and I think we have a good relationship with them.”
Mr Jenkins said the club had stayed in close contact with past and present players and officials, assuring them they wanted to keep all players, but unaware what the impact of the salary cap and points changes would be.
But he acknowledged some clubs may not come through the COVID-19 setback.
“It’s going to be hard. There will be some clubs that won’t come through this and we hope we’re not one of them.”
With the future in mind, however, the club has confirmed the appointment of former assistant coach Luke Manders as senior coach with Brett Mitchell also staying on.
Other key features of the G25 plan include a move to divisional football in the ‘Western Corridor’ before 2025 and a focus on the development of the women’s game.
However, there’s little if anything relating to the future and growth of netball.
Umpires get a mention but netball and its relationship with footy hardly rates.
Another sticking point for clubs could be the plan to “centralise procurement”, that is buying supplies including tape, food and beverage contracts and equipment outside the leagues’ local areas.
With sponsorships and key support at stake, this might not go down well.
Recommendation 46 (RA5.2) encourages clubs “to improve negotiating power with suppliers, the Regional Administration Centres should develop a centralised procurement offering for clubs (opt-in model) with a focus on leveraging buying power across the region”.
“Group buying should provide a reduction in the cost per unit for the clubs, helping clubs address the increasing cost and revenue pressures.”
AFL Victoria has adopted this recommendation.
“The AFL industry is fortunate to have the support of excellent suppliers and service providers who all offer highly competitive pricing. AFL Victoria and AFL Gippsland will seek to utilise those partnerships to pass savings on to community stakeholders.”
In a statement released on Thursday, August 13 by AFL Victoria, the authority said it would consider recommendations from the independent report into Gippsland Football “as part of its commitment to community football and its objective to strengthen the game in regional areas”.
Dalyston FNC President Andy Thomas is cautiously optimistic about the G25 plan but believes the divisional plan involving West Gippsland and Ellinbank clubs “will take some time to evolve”.
He was also critical of the report for its lack of focus on netball and support for junior development in football.
Mr Thomas represents the Dalyston club which plays in the West Gippsland competition.
See more details at www.sgst.com.au.
New hope for Alberton