AFL South East wants restructure

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IN two months’ time, AFL South East will deliver recommendations that are likely to re-shape the current structure of Nepean and Peninsula football.

Since April, AFL South East Region General Manager John Anderson and his team have been consulting with clubs throughout the region, which has included clubs in the South-East Football Netball League (SEFNL), as they look to complete a Competition Review into the 2018 season.

There are 31 clubs managed by AFL South East and according to presidents from Nepean and Peninsula divisions, they are being told that the push for a restructure is being driven by clubs in the SEFNL.

Make no mistake, this review and restructure is not being driven by any clubs. It is being driven by the AFL and AFL South East. It all began in 2011 when the AFL then asked for a review of country football, which later resulted in 13 regions being created.

It has been on the AFL’s agenda for a long time.

When former AFL SE General Manager Jeremy Bourke was at the helm, one of his key strategies was to bring in divisional football across the three leagues. He had the experience given his history with the Amateurs.

However, restructure wasn’t being driven by personal preference, it was driven by the desire to have three ‘even’ competitions across the region.

Whilst Bourke may no longer still be in the chair, the agenda for AFL South East remains the same.

There is one hurdle though – a steadfast group of Nepean and Peninsula presidents who are not remotely interested in joining a three-tier competition with the SEFNL.

Frankston President Chris ‘Batty’ Sharman, fresh from a President’ Meeting last Wednesday night, said on the RPP Footy Show on Saturday morning that “being in a divisional competition with clubs from the SEFNL put Nepean and Peninsula clubs to the wall once before and we are not interested in this happening again.”

“We have had the opportunity to put our case forward and now we wait for the recommendations,” Sharman said.

“When the recommendations are delivered in July, as presidents we will meet again and decide what action we will take,” he said.

The AFL South East Review principles look like this:

• To investigate and explore the senior football competition structures in the South-East region that will promote the sustainability of Clubs

• To investigate and explore the senior football competition structures in the South-East region that will promote participation growth

• To consider the competitive balance of the senior football competition structures for implementation in 2018.

• To consider the impact on netball in the South-East region in any review findings

The Review will also consider feedback received during 2016 when a survey was sent to clubs asking several questions relevant to this Review. Despite being anonymous, responses were received to the survey by a majority of clubs.

The final line in the AFL SE Review was that there would be “no further comment by the Commission until the draft recommendations are released.”

That’s a bit rich from an organisation that based transparency as its platform to boot the old MPNFL Board and Administration and take over office two years ago.

Rosebud Football Club, which was one of the key drivers in replacing the old administration with AFL SE, wrote on its social media page that “the findings and ultimate outcome of this review has the potential to completely change the face of Peninsula football – and not for the better!

“In particular it is clear that there is an agenda to implement a backward return to divisional football, with promotion and relegation re-introduced between two or more leagues.

“How anyone thinks it would be good for local footy and netball to see one or more of a Rosebud, Rye, Sorrento or Dromana competing in a different League that includes a Seaford, Frankston YCW, or worse a Berwick, Doveton or Narre Warren beggar’s belief.

“You can rest assured that our Club and others will fight tooth and nail to prevent this from occurring,” the post suggested.

So, as you can see, not only do Nepean and Peninsula Clubs not want to join a super league with SEFNL, there are some Nepean clubs that are not even interested in promotion-relegation with Peninsula clubs.

Without question, clubs and the AFL SE are poles apart on this one. My guess is that AFL SE will spend the next eight weeks working out a PR plan to try and roll it out with minimal damage.

For mine, the focus of AFL SE should be to come up with a plan to fix their dysfunctional junior program, work with and build a relationship with Mornington Peninsula Juniors, conduct a review of the Under 19 and Under 17 programs and leave strong, healthy competitions the way they are for now.

Can we see a parent in Sorrento driving their 17-year-old son to Officer for a 9am start on a Saturday morning?

First published in the Mornington News – 30 May 2017

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