Dismantling is not the best way forward
I wish to put forward my concerns regarding the AFL Goldfields proposed changes to the structure of football and in particular, changes within the Central Highlands Football & Netball League.
From the outset, I wish to make it very clear that this is not the first occasion that the CHFL have had to withstand attempts to dismantle its league.
Indeed, the possibility of such a thing happening seems to have hung over the CHFL for quite some time.
That agenda has been around long before the inclusion of the four Western District teams into the CHFL.
The so called problem of there being too much of a discrepancy between the top teams and bottom teams within the CHFL is not uncommon, e.g. a study of 34 Victorian country leagues at the conclusion of the home and away matches last season reveals that:
- 19 teams won only 1 game
- 22 teams won only 2 games
- 16 teams won only 3 games.
That is a fair indication that the CHFL are not alone in having a difference between clubs having varying success.
From the time the CHFL was formed in 1979, the league has faced many challenges.
From the original concept of 16 teams, the league have lost Bacchus Marsh, Korweingboora, Wendouree and Darley.
Three of those clubs now form part of the Ballarat Football League.
When Beaufort and Daylesford left the BFL, the CHFL opened the door to accommodate those clubs.
More recently, the league embraced the four Western District clubs to give them the opportunity to be part of the CHFL.
It is clearly obvious that the CHFL have reached out to develop and enhance football in this region.
If there were a better way forward to the current perceived problem, I'm sure the CHFL would be only too happy to comply.
However, just as the AFL Goldfields are becoming aware, the matter cannot be addressed without causing major disruptions to clubs who have been "competing against neighbouring clubs for in excess of 50 odd years and some going back into 1930". To force such clubs, against their will, to have to drive through and away from competing against neighbouring towns to play football further afield, is most certainly not in the best interests of football generally. Clubs relocated against their will are likely to lose patronage, lose revenue, distinctly possible to lose players from both football and netball, very likely to lose under age players to other clubs, and ultimately become very vulnerable.
Any suggestion of removing clubs from the Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League is simply grasping at straws, e.g. Lexton after some years of uncertainty seem to have found stability in the MCDFL.
Likewise, Trentham left the Clunes Football League because they could see a brighter future in the MCDFL also.
It is not my charter to try to find a solution to the situation that the four Western District clubs find themselves in.
However, the attrition of time sees many changes in clubs' fortunes, e.g. Springbank and Gordon, along with Dunnstown have experienced some very difficult times.
The sport of football came into being by forming clubs to cater for the youth of a particular township to play the sport.
Leagues were then formed around those clubs in close proximity to form a competition.
To deviate too far from those ideals and principles goes against the concept of what football was originally based on.
I implore AFL Goldfields to step back and realise that trying to fix one problem can escalate into more unforeseen problems. I also draw your attention to the Alberton League in South Gippsland.
Changes forced on that league (by AFL Country in that region) have left the Alberton League with 7 clubs, one club that didn't win a game for the season and now the league faces the prospect of being a six team league.
Those changes have destroyed what was a very healthy and viable league.
Ray Murphy, former president and life member of The Central Highlands Football League and The Ballarat Football League.