Central Highlands Football League president Eddy Comelli has sent a clear message to the AFL Goldfields: hands off our competition.
The region's administrative body has revealed two options to split the league – one based on location and another on competitiveness.
The plan involves bringing Maryborough Castlemaine District League club Lexton across and could also include Ballarat league side Sebastopol.
Under its region-wide review of football and netball, AFL Goldfields has asked the clubs and leagues impacted to provide feedback on a preferred option by close of business on November 10.
Comelli said the CHFL board had held a meeting last week before a gathering of club presidents.
He said there was a strong show of hands to refrain from splitting the league.
“There was 14 hands went up that didn’t want to split the league. One abstained, I think, from voting and I think of the three that actually voted for a restructure or a splitting of the league, a couple of them weren’t really interested in the proposals that have been put forward anyway,” he said.
“They (AFL Goldfields) are not offering the league anything that’s attractive to the league in any way shape or form. Nothing, basically, that the AFL Goldfields have put forward is of any interest to the Central Highlands Football League.”
Comelli said it appeared that Smythesdale was in danger of folding ahead of next season and that would only leave 17 clubs in the competition.
And he added that his own discussions had suggested Lexton was not keen on shifting to a newly-formed league.
“We’re down to 17 clubs and if you try and split 17 clubs, what have you got? You’ve got 10 and seven or eight and nine. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
Comelli said there was anger from the leagues’ presidents. “We actually feel like we are being bullied.”
Comelli said the netball division of the league had been neglected in the talks about splitting the league. “Everyone’s forgetting, there’s 1600 netballers in our competition. They are a bigger part of our competition than what the football is.”
Comelli has previously floated his own ideas of a split for the CHFL – as recent as 2016 – but said one of his key focuses as president for the next two years was to ensure the league’s clubs remain together.
He said some clubs within the league have been told to consider amalgamation and admitted the board had discussed changing the fixture to accommodate some of the sides battling at the bottom of the ladder.
AFL Goldfields is set to deliver its final recommendations by November 30