AN under 17s competition will be introduced in the East Gippsland Football-Netball League next year following opposition to its implementation across the region.
AFL Gippsland released the final eight recommendations of its leagues and competitions review on Friday, following the receiving of feedback for the draft proposals.
One of the most controversial draft recommendations was replacing under 16 and 18 competitions in most leagues, including North Gippsland and East Gippsland, with under 17s.
Instead, the move will only go ahead in East Gippsland, a move which AFL Gippsland hoped would not only address issues around the retention of junior players and their transition to senior football in east Gippsland, but also assist in the development of a broader plan regarding underage structures across the region.
The final report endorsed the merging of the Mid Gippsland and Alberton leagues.
Following feedback to the draft recommendations report, member clubs will have the opportunity to determine the governance and administration structure, instead of being overseen by AFL Gippsland.
The AFL Gippsland Region Commission deemed structural change necessary following Alberton clubs expressing grave concerns about their viability in the current six-team competition, following Devon-Welshpool-Won Wron-Woodside going into recess this year.
The new league will play a 20-round season, including two byes for each team, plus a top eight finals series.
After playing each other once, the clubs will be split into three “rival groupings” for the final five rounds.
To avoid teams playing in similar coloured jumpers, AFL Gippsland will provide a one-off subsidy of $3500 to clubs to purchase “clash” jumpers.
AFL Gippsland general manager Ben Joske said the commission had a responsibility to ensure every person in Gippsland had the opportunity to engage with a stable, vibrant and viable club.
“The AFL Gippsland Commission is firmly of the view that for football to flourish in the region it requires a whole-of-region approach,” he said.
“The future of the six remaining Alberton clubs is dependent on a willingness for the Gippsland football community to embrace change and work together.
“We all know how important sporting clubs are to the fabric of our communities and we don’t want to see any clubs disappear which is the reality facing some of our clubs and communities if things don’t change.”
Under a separate recommendation, Yarragon will transfer to the Mid Gippsland league to Ellinbank and District, in place of Warragul Industrials, which will join the West Gippsland competition, along with Tooradin-Dalmore.
Other proposed changes focussed on volunteer support, player permit structures and area agreements between leagues, as well as a more formal process towards alignments between junior and senior clubs.
AFL Gippsland will now work with clubs and leagues on an implementation strategy for the recommended changes.
Clubs and leagues will have until Friday to appeal to AFL Victoria against the implementation of the recommendations.
AFL Gippsland will still look into creating an east-west conference structure for the Gippsland League, which could be introduced as early as 2020.