Lifeline for three AFNL clubs

Liam Durkin

THE Mid Gippsland Football League has declared it would only welcome a maximum of three clubs from the Alberton Football-Netball League for any league restructure heading into 2020 and beyond.

A meeting between the two leagues was held last week, where the MGFL was steadfast in its view it could only accommodate half of the current six AFNL clubs.

While it did not confirm which clubs it would take, there is general consensus that the towns closest to the MGFL’s most southern club, Mirboo North, would be the ones on the radar.

If the MGFL takes in any new clubs it appears Meeniyan-Dunbalk United, Stony Creek and either Foster or Stony Creek, towns all within a 40-minute drive of Mirboo North, would be the most likely.

The remaining AFNL clubs, reasonably assumed to be Tarwin, Toora and either Foster or Stony Creek, would therefore be unable to join the MGFL and would need to look for a new league to affiliate with elsewhere.

It is understood some AFNL clubs are divided on whether to separate or go with a ‘one in all in’ approach to finding a new home in 2020.

In a statement, the MGFL said it was not up to it to solve the problems existing in the AFNL, although it accepted the recent meeting between the two parties had made it appear discussions were back to where they were when the notion was first presented almost 12 months ago.

“The MGFL/MGNA is of the firm belief that the real choice is up to the individual clubs within the Alberton FNL to make application to join the MGFL/MGNA for season 2020, which will be assessed in good faith,” the MGFL statement read.

“The MGFL/MGNA acknowledges that this willingness to assist will only be part of the full solution required for all clubs within the current Alberton FNL and call on other neighbouring leagues to consider applications from the individual Alberton league clubs.

“Failing the current Alberton FNL clubs of accepting the invitation by the MGFL/MGNA to apply to join our merged MGFNL for season 2020 and beyond, the MGFL/MGNA has no other solution than to suggest that the Alberton FNL continue to operate as a six team competition going into the foreseeable future.

“The MGFL/MGNA wish to record our disquiet that this matter has occupied the highest priority of the previous AFL Gippsland Commissioners and AFL Victoria. The MGFL/MGNA firmly believes that the need to promote our game and increase our youth participation is of our regions highest priority.

“The most recent example of our league, clubs executives and delegates arranging again to meet with the Alberton FNL on short notice, at their request, only to have the meeting cancelled with no reasoning on the day of the meeting, has further reduced the confidence that a sensible solution will be negotiated by the Alberton FNL committee of management.”

The MGFL climate is not without itsfaults, and the league has problems of its own to deal with, including a one-sided senior football competition which has first-placed Yallourn-Yallourn North statistically 50 goals better than the second best team, and issues at junior level.

Currently, there are only four under 18 football sides competing in the MGFL, which is diluting the talent pool catastrophically, evidenced by the recent junior interleague carnival where the MGFL team did win a game and scored just 48 points across four games. There is growing animosity in local sporting circles regarding the best solution to the AFNL situation, with nothing appearing to suit all parties.

Both the West Gippsland competition and the Ellinbank and District league have refused to accept any AFNL clubs, while the North Gippsland Football-Netball League has never really entered into serious conversation.

Local MP’s have called on relevant bodies to intervene, while conspiracy theorists have not discounted the possibility of a rebel league being established.

And of course, the AFNL clubs are well and truly over the uncertainty.

Interestingly, at a recent special general meeting of the Trafalgar Football-Netball Club, members voted to remain in the MGFL. While a move away from the MGFL was highly unlikely, it is believed part of the reason the vote was called was to get the MGFL to improve its efforts to entice clubs to remain affiliated.