Country footy league on brink of collapse, fears clubs ‘will disappear’ unless AFL steps in
Peter Rolfe, Herald Sun
November 26, 2018

A country Victorian footy league that has ran for 70 years and produced 13 AFL players is on its knees, with several clubs fearing for their future. Here’s why.

Footy clubs in a country Victorian league that has run for more than 70 years fear they will be forced to fold ­unless the AFL intervenes in their fight for survival.

The Alberton Football Netball League survived a push to disband last week, when two of its six clubs voted to wind up an association dating back to 1946.

But there are fears several clubs in the league — which has produced 13 AFL players — are on borrowed time as they struggle to sign players and compete in such a small competition.

AFL Victoria has been ­accused of failing to safeguard the clubs’ future by refusing to allow the six teams to merge with neighbouring leagues.

Fish Creek member and spokeswoman Megan Vuillermin said the game’s governing body had blocked repeated ­attempts by the clubs to join other leagues.

“As a league, we need help,” Ms Vuillermin said.

“All six clubs would like to stick together, but most know that for their survival, they need to apply to play in a different league. We can’t leave, but staying is doing us even more damage.”

A stalemate between AFL authorities and the clubs saw Fish Creek and Stony Creek vote to disband the league. But Foster, Meeniyan Dumbalk United, Tarwin and Toora voted in favour of fighting on.

“We’re in danger of all six clubs completely disbanding,” Ms Vuillermin said.

“If the clubs get through next year, there is no way they will get through another one.

“They will disappear because players just don’t want to come back.”

AFL Gippsland this year recommended merging the league with the neighbouring Mid Gippsland League, to bolster player numbers across all grades. It also encouraged all six clubs to seek their own mergers at a later emergency meeting.

AFL Victoria said the Mid Gippsland league and its nine clubs “did not want to merge with the Alberton FL clubs and exercised their right to resist the merger via their appeals”.

“AFL Victoria will continue to support AFL Gippsland to work with the Alberton FL clubs and surrounding leagues to find them an appropriate home for the 2020 season,” AFL Victoria said.

“This will involve working with surrounding leagues such as the Mid Gippsland, Ellinbank, West Gippsland and North Gippsland leagues.”

Several clubs say they will be unable to put together ­seconds and thirds squads next season and may be pushed to even field seniors some weeks.

Officials are considering taking their fight to VCAT, but hope the AFL will intervene.

Fish Creek penned a passionate letter to the AFL Commission, describing “the grave situation” it believed was “ominous for the game of Australian football as a whole”.

“We can see our club, once so proud and vibrant, withering before our eyes,” it said.

“We can foresee a day when there is no football club in Fish Creek — indeed, where there is no football in the district, and that is where the AFL Commission comes in.

“If Australian football dies at the grassroots, it will eventually die at the top level.”

The club is yet to receive a response from the AFL Commission.

If Australian football dies at the grassroots, it will eventually die at the top level.
Fish Creek Football Club

Country footy league on brink of collapse, fears clubs ‘will disappear’ unless AFL steps in