The clubs have spoken

The vast majority of the WGFNC's clubs, including reigning premier Inverloch Kongwak, want a Saturday grand final this season. 173007 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Gazette sports editor Russell Bennett

The West Gippsland Football Netball Competition could be set to perform a stunning backflip on its announcement of a Sunday grand final for this season.

The Gazette understands there will be a meeting featuring the competition’s presidents this Thursday night (26 July) where they will overwhelmingly push for a reversal – to revert the grand final back to Saturday 15 September.

There have been a number of letters drafted by clubs in staunch opposition to the Sunday decider, due to a range of factors including pre-arranged post-grand final club functions already booked for the Saturday night or Sunday.

Nar Nar Goon Football Club president Dene Missen and Netball Club presidents Sandra Keysers and Keith Masterson co-signed a letter to the league saying both were opposed to a Sunday grand final, and would prefer a Saturday decider “as originally fixtured”.

The clubs requested that the WGFNC reconsider its Sunday grand final plans, and also review the host club catering and payment options “to better reward clubs for the huge workload involved”.

It has been confirmed to the Gazette that the WGFNC’s advisory committee has the capacity to change the date of the grand final should it be deemed appropriate to do so.

Bruce Clark, the president of reigning senior football premier Inverloch Kongwak, also confirmed his club’s push for the competition to revert back to a Saturday grand final.

“It’s the timeframe of it all,” Clark explained.

“Everyone has already set their social calendars and they’re pretty much already cemented.
“If they want a Sunday grand final, it needs to be discussed now for next year.”

Clark said Inverloch Kongwak traditionally held its vote count on the Sunday – the day after the grand final – with its presentation night the following Friday.

A Sunday grand final would wreak havoc on those plans.

Clark also said that if the Sunday grand final remained this season, and his club was to again feature in the senior football decider, coach Ben Soumilas wouldn’t even be available to try and lead the group to back-to-back flags due to pre-existing work commitments on the day.

Clark confirmed that his club initiated the process around a month ago of gathering feedback from each of the other WGFNC clubs when it came to the preferred grand final day.

“The emails and letters we got back were pretty much a carbon copy of what we’d said,” Clark added.

“We’ve got six letters back, and basically seven clubs stating they don’t want it.

“To me it’s a no-brainer that it doesn’t go ahead.

“If it was going to be beneficial we’d vote that way, but it’s just of no benefit for anyone concerned.”

AFL Gippsland commissioner John White said the intent of the shift away from the Saturday decider was to “maximise the return for the clubs and spectator participation by perhaps moving to a Sunday grand final”.

“That has merit,” he added.

“But unfortunately a lot of the clubs have looked at it and said it would be difficult to manage from a volunteer point of view.

“I think the thing here is that we have to break down some of those traditional models of how people do things for grand finals.

“West Gippsland is becoming a premier league and we need to be showcasing it to as many people as we can.

“But at the meeting on Thursday night I think it’s pretty clear there’ll be a rejection of the Sunday grand final, and that’s fine – we should put it on our agenda again for down the track.

“Perhaps the best step would be to look at our programing for next year and see what can be done to have the draw in such a manner that we don’t have this clash of grand finals”.

White said the commission was aware of the clubs’ issues with the Sunday decider.

“Some of the letters (from clubs) that have come in have probably caught everyone by surprise, because the discussion about the Sunday grand final – while it was in an informal manner – certainly had a lot of momentum with a number of people,” he said.

“But when it comes to the crunch they’ve said no – we want to retain Saturday.

“When it comes to meetings such as this, once we all get into the same room as presidents and the hierarchy of competition, we’re actually there for the purpose of the competition – not an individual club over another.”

The Gazette also understands that some WGFNC clubs have declined altogether to nominate to host a final, but would do so if the grand final day was changed back to a Saturday.