Another twist in Alberton saga

Liam Durkin

THERE has been another twist in the Alberton league saga, as the merry-go-round of Gippsland football and netball continues.

After it appeared certain six Alberton clubs would transfer to other leagues in 2019, AFL Victoria swooped in over the top and directed both the Alberton and Mid Gippsland clubs to continue as they had been in 2018 — with the exception of Yarragon, which has committed to the Ellinbank and District League, leaving the MGFL with nine members.

The verdict came via email at 4.30pm last Wednesday, just three hours before a meeting between the Mid Gippsland league and its clubs, which coincided with a similar meeting AFL Gippsland held with the Alberton clubs.

The AFL Victoria appeals panel which stopped the proposed merger between Alberton and Mid Gippsland came up with the directive, citing timing as the main reason behind the ruling.

“From our perspective what it means is that it will be business as usual for 2019,” MGFL publicity officer Rob Popplestone said.

The decision will give Mid Gippsland time to address a number of pressing issues, with Popplestone saying the league’s main priorities were on improving juniors, amalgamating the currently separate football and netball administrations and arranging a taskforce to oversee how the league could ensure its long term viability.

“We have won the battle for now but there is still a war going on,” Popplestone said.

By contrast, the Alberton league meeting with AFL Gippsland was far less euphoric, as all six clubs were told they would have to remain in a set-up which they had all opted out of and were under the impression would change.

Devon-Welshpool Won Wron-Woodside, which is in receness, was not invited to the meeting of Alberton clubs.

AFL Victoria will be monitoring the region closely and will aim to release a new recommendation by July of next year.

“We will just have to bite the bullet for 2019, avoid the negativity and hope 2020 delivers a positive outcome,” Toora Football-Netball Club president Trent Crawford said.

“It is extremely frustrating and we are sick of telling our members one thing and then another.”

Popplestone sympathised with the plight of the Alberton clubs, while fellow Mid Gippsland club Trafalgar explained it would be happy to sit down with all parties to work out an amicable solution.

“In what was a close vote the club decided that AFL Victoria and AFL Gippsland should manage the Alberton league and provide the best possible outcome for all clubs involved,” outgoing Trafalgar president Ray Wall said in the wake of the club’s annual meeting.

In the wake of AFL Victoria’s verdict, AFL Gippsland region general manger Ben Joske said it would work closely with clubs in both the Alberton and neighbouring leagues to work out a resolution for 2020 and beyond.

“We don’t feel our review has been a waste of time as there are still nine recommendations that are going to be implemented, and it has generated a lot of passionate discussion from clubs,” he said.

Alberton clubs are set to formally vote soon on a motion to officially dissolve the league. While Toora and Tarwin signaled their intentions to vote against the motion, there was still no answer as to what would become of south Gippsland clubs if it were to wind up.

“That’s the scary part, no one knows,” Crawford said.

In another twist, the North Gippsland Football-Netball League has confirmed it will move its administration out of the AFL Gippsland regional administration centre and back into its own hands after five years of being managed by AFL Gipspland, with a view to reconvene their relationship at a later date.

NGFNL president David Kyle said the league still believed being administered by AFL Gippsland was the best way to go.

“But at the moment, they have complex issues that we need to give them space to let them deal with,” he said.