By sports editor Russell Bennett
The time has come for the clubs of the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition to stand up as one and be heard.
Following an eye-opening meeting in Kooweerup on Monday night, which representatives from AFL Gippsland and AFL Victoria also attended, the presidents of the WGFNC clubs have joined together to co-sign a letter to AFL Gippsland region general manager Ben Joske and, indirectly, AFL Victoria that clearly outlines their stance.
Put simply, that stance is that they’re going to stand their ground against any forced multi-divisional competition featuring the Alberton league clubs.
The clubs have unanimously rallied against the prospect of accepting any of the five Alberton clubs that applied to join the West Gippsland competition – those five clubs being Fish Creek, Foster, Meeniyan Dumbalk United, Tarwin, and Toora.
A sixth Alberton club, Stony Creek, continued with its appeal to join the Ellinbank league and has not applied to join West Gippsland.
The WGFNC clubs are calling for a “period of stability” – involving three years without structural change from the time of the competition’s formation ahead of the 2017 season – that they agreed to, but which they argue has not eventuated.
Crucially, they also reject the idea of their competition being controlled by AFL Gippsland, citing a loss of confidence in AFL Victoria to determine the proper future direction of the WGFNC.
The West Gippsland clubs, as a collective, have also rejected the placement of any member club into another division as part of a proposed two-division restructure involving the five Alberton clubs.
The letter, seen by the Gazette, states that “a number of current WGFNC members have confirmed they will be forced into recession should the proposed restructure go ahead”.
The WGFNC clubs are also calling on AFL Victoria for the transfer of the competition’s governance to a new entity that will determine its future.
“We do not accept the current status of governance by AFL Gippsland into perpetuity,” the letter states.
“All clubs seek release from the current governance model at the end of the 2019 season, whereby a fully-constituted entity will be formed and seek affiliation with AFL Vic.”
The West Gippsland clubs have also made a strong collective stance on the status of the Alberton clubs that could yet be bound for their competition.
“Alberton clubs do not, in our opinion, represent a viable long-term fit into (the) WGFNC,” the letter states.
“Alberton clubs are geographically isolated at great distance from most WGFNC clubs.
“It is also our understanding (that) some Alberton clubs may have long term viability issues.”
The WGFNC clubs are suggesting AFL Victoria explores the placement of the Alberton clubs into other neighbouring Gippsland competitions – Mid Gippsland, North Gippsland, and Ellinbank.
“We strongly urge AFL Gippsland enter into re-negotiations with Mid Gippsland, North Gippsland & Ellinbank to resolve this matter,” the letter states.
On the issue of divisional football involving West Gippsland, the clubs are also united. They want to see the concept embrace the regions of Alberton, Ellinbank, and West Gippsland in the future – but they don’t see it happening for at least the next three years.