article written by Kate Withers reporting for Latrobe Valley Express. Original article published by Latrobe Valley Express on 6th September, 2018.


The Mid Gippsland Football League has rejected AFL Gippsland’s recommendation that it merge with the Alberton Football Netball League to form a new competition in time for the 2019 season.

AFL Gippsland last week released its Leagues and Competition Review Draft Recommendations report and suggested nine MGFL clubs and six AFNL clubs form the Central and Southern Gippsland Competition.

In the report, AFL Gippsland said the review panel “deemed structural change necessary following 100 per cent of AFNL clubs suggesting that a six team competition was not viable into the future”.

However, MGFL spokesman Rob Popplestone said “all MGFL clubs are unanimous in rejecting the recommendation” and raised concerns about what the new competition would mean for clubs.

“At the moment we believe there is a vibrant and financially strong league in the MGFL that doesn’t believe it will be made stronger by adding more clubs,” Popplestone said.

“It might actually put at risk the strength we already have.”

AFL Gippsland region general manager Ben Joske said the MGFL had “quite a good senior model at the moment” but change was necessary.

“Essentially these recommendations were established to sustain football and netball clubs in the region and make sure they’re viable into the future,” Joske said.

“We see it as being a really positive step forward for Gippsland and the region so it’s upon us to work with those clubs and make them feel comfortable.”

The report also suggests the new competition would operate under AFL Gippsland governance and administration.

“I think an alignment of the administration, and economies of scale … will allow us to actually deliver a better product,” Joske said.

He also said AFL Gippsland’s Regional Administration Centre would offer “really well-educated people working in an area in a professional manner.”

However, Popplestone said the MGFL had “been doing their own research” and were “not so comfortable with what AFL Gippsland might deliver”.

“The problem is that AFL Gippsland have got noble intentions of trying to operate seamlessly, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all,” he said.

“The biggest problem at the moment is the concern of what might happen but I don’t think anyone knows what the result will be.”

The MGFL has also taken issue with the timing of AFL Gippsland’s release and the time given for clubs to provide feedback.

“To release this report the day before the Alberton grand final borders on disrespectful,” Popplestone said.

“All the focus should have been on their grand final and listen to spectators and radio stations not talk about what is happening right now, but what might happen, is disappointing. To have two weeks to reply heightens our apprehension about whether they’ve got any empathy for the history of our clubs.”

AFL Gippsland also acknowledged the new league would mean increased travel time for some clubs, however, said it was a small price to pay to ensure the longevity of football in the region.

“Three times a year teams will be doing an extra 30 kilometres per game, so across the season that means 90 kilometres additional,” Joske said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a huge stretch when it comes to making sure Gippsland football is existing.”

However, Popplestone said increases in travel, “however small … could make the difference between attracting coaches and players or not”.

“Right now there’s seven coaches being sought for MGFL and clubs are trying to recruit new players. What do we tell those coaches?” he said.

“It’s put a cloud of doubt over what we’ll look like.”

Additionally, seven clubs from the Traralgon and District Junior Football League are preparing to lodge an official objection to AFL Gippsland’s plans to abolish the league’s under 16 competition.

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