Warragul to host Bendigo clash

WARRAGUL’S Western Park will host the AFL Victoria Community Championships showdown between the Gippsland and Bendigo leagues on May 21.

Bendigo’s concerns over travel, as well as the North and East Gippsland leagues staging regular matches that day, ruled out Sale, Maffra and Bairnsdale from consideration to host the game.

The Gippsland League also didn’t want to go head-to-head with Alberton’s interleague clash at Foster, so ruled out Leongatha and Wonthaggi.

After three unsuccessful trips to Bendigo in the past six years, the Gippsland League’s senior representative football side has the opportunity to turn the tables on its great rival on its own turf.

Gippsland League chairman Greg Maidment said the board considered all options before settling on Western Park as the venue.

“Western Park is an excellent venue for players and spectators and we know the Warragul Football-Netball Club will do a great job hosting,” he said.

The west Gippsland-based Ellinbank league, also taking part in the country championships, is taking a general bye that weekend.

Last year, Gippsland played Yarra Valley-Mountain District at Drouin.

Senior football coach Steve Hazelman has assembled an experienced match committee, including Shane Fyfe, Leigh McDonald, Damien Kerr and Adrian Burgiel for what looms as the league’s best chance to scale the championships rankings for many years.

As it stands, Bendigo will only be fielding a senior football team, but Maidment said various options were being considered to ensure the league’s elite netballers were able to participate in the event.

“Being the premier league in Gippsland we place a high value on the championships and believe it is a great way to showcase Gippsland football and netball,” he said.

With the introduction of four metropolitan leagues in 2016, Bendigo and Gippsland presently sit 11th and 12th on the championships rankings.