By sports editor Russell Bennett
An external body will play a key role in developing a new strategic plan for community football and netball in Gippsland.
While clubs throughout the region will be asked to provide their feedback through a survey, as well as take part in consultation sessions at the end of the month, the decision to appoint an external body to oversee the Gippsland 2025 Strategic Plan – or ‘G25’ – is one that has already started to raise eyebrows at local level.
Earlier this year the AFL Gippsland commission was sacked, and former region general manager Ben Joske’s position was made redundant.
The interim commission is currently made up of AFL employees.
In late August, clubs of the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition made it clear to AFL Gippsland that they want greater input in the decision-making process in the WGFNC.
It’s the wish of the clubs that a majority vote of 75 per cent would be necessary to accept any new clubs into the fold, with no appeals process allowed for clubs that failed to reach that majority.
There’s a common view emerging from clubland that the WGFNC clubs won’t be voting in favour of Wonthaggi entering the competition.
And there has also been some talk doing the rounds that the clubs of West Gippsland could even look to incorporate as their own body if the G25 document points to significant change happening within the WGFNC.
Earlier this week, former AFL Gippsland commissioner John White finally received a response by the office of Victorian Sport Minister Martin Pakula to his call for a review of the relationship between AFL Victoria and community football netball clubs. White wrote to the minister’s office on 17 May, 11 June, and 28 August, and also set up a change.org petition that garnered thousands of signatures and comments of support.
“In June, the Minister publicly stated that matters relating to the governance and management of local football leagues and commissions are a matter for AFL Victoria, and that there is no basis for the Government to intervene in such matters,” said the minister’s chief of staff, Adrian Browne, in the official response to White.
White is among those who clearly have serious doubts when it comes to G25.
“I suspect there’ll be some disappointment throughout Gippsland as the terms of reference offer little in the way of a strategic plan for the future,” he said.
“It was the understanding of the communities that the AFL would release a document following the fanfare associated with the G25 announcement.
“It’s also a bit of a concern that of the much sought-after $18m injection into country football, tens of thousands of dollars of that seem to be destined for an external company overseeing the (G25) review.
“All of Gippsland can only hope that good comes of this, as the AFL has continued to plague our region for the past several years.”
Late last month, the Gazette reported on the dismay of many within clubland of the WGFNC at Joske being given his marching orders by AFL Victoria.
Chris Ross, the president of the powerhouse Phillip Island Football Netball Club – which has won back-to-back senior premierships, and this year won flags in the fourths, thirds, and seniors – made it clear just how irate he was at the decision to let Joske go, with his position officially being made redundant.
“It’s a disgrace,” Ross said of the decision.
“Ben was unbelievably approachable and he had the clubs’ best interests at heart.
“I’m gutted, to be honest.”
When asked if he thought Joske had been made a scapegoat for the turmoil in the Gippsland region in recent times, Ross said: “100 per cent”.
Nar Nar Goon Football Club president Dene Missen also spoke about Joske’s ousting, from the perspective of his own club – one of the biggest in West Gippsland.
“The Nar Nar Goon Football Club felt that Ben Joske – as head of AFL Gippsland – was making a concerted effort to listen to the clubs and their concerns moving forward,” he said.
“We are angry and bewildered with Ben’s sacking without any consultation with the clubs and are anxious about the future direction of football in Gippsland.”