Returning to the negotiating table

IT was back to the negotiating table as the Alberton Football-Netball League and Mid Gippsland Football League met on Wednesday to try and resolve the ongoing battle to find a home for the six intrepid Alberton clubs.

Like the unfortunate character Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons, the Alberton league clubs have suffered rejection after rejection in the past nine months, culminating in a public cry from the football and netball-loving public to do something before clubs drift off into oblivion.

Both Mid Gippsland and the Ellinbank and District leagues rejected proposals from Alberton league clubs to join, as did the West Gippsland competition. The latter would have seen the six Alberton clubs compete in a second divisional structure and appeared a highly workable solution before it was shut down on the basis of the three-year-old West Gippsland Competition being too raw to be tinkered with.

Wednesday's meeting completed a virtual merry-go-round as it was close to 12 months since the initial proposal was put forward by AFL Gippsland to merge the AFNL and MGFL.

While that proposal was defeated in October by AFL Victoria, both leagues were put on notice and given 12 month's grace to sort themselves out.

In the months that followed there have been a number of casualties, the climax being all AFL Gippsland regional commissioners losing their positions in May.

The decision to sack the commission amid claims of mismanagement of funds led to questioning of the competency of people charged with running the game.

As a result of stalled progress, the Alberton season has become something of a write-off given how much the debacle has clouded the competition.

Similarly, the Mid Gippsland league is in a precarious state, evidenced by the fact there are only four under 18 football sides to go with a one-sided senior competition which has first-placed Yallourn-Yallourn North close to 50 goals better than the nearest challenger.

At a meeting on July 1 called by AFL Gippsland, key figures in Gippsland football and netball circles discussed options for how the AFNL would move forward.

In his weekly report in the Tagger, North Gippsland Football-Netball League president David Kyle said it was not appropriate to share any views of the likely outcomes or preferred pathways at the moment.

"The discussion was intended to engage all administrators to find a localised solution to the current scenario," he said.

"I am not sure we will achieve that in one meeting.

"My personal opinion is no matter which league or which role you hold as an administrator our fundamental responsibility is to provide pathways and competitions for players to play.

"If that means the future looks different to how we have done things for the past 100 years then so be it."

There has been suggestion that a move by NGFNL clubs Gormandale and Woodside to the AFNL might alleviate part of the problem and at least allow the AFNL to compete with eight clubs, but the NGFNL would prefer not to lose any clubs.

It would be hard to see the NGFNL changing given it is currently enjoying a healthy competition and although Gormandale and Glengarry are struggling in senior football ranks, both at least have junior football sides, with the Magpies' under 18s currently undefeated.

The MGFL was unable to provide a comment by yesterday's publication deadline.