Talk of breakaway league, but Gisborne happy in Bendigo

GISBORNE president Colin Rodgers says the Bulldogs would be unlikely to have any interest in being part of a possible breakaway league that would include nearby clubs.

Gisborne has been touted as a potential club that could be part of a new league established as early as 2017 involving a mix of teams from the Riddell District Football League and the Ballarat Football League’s eastern bloc.

The discussion surrounding a new league follows Sunbury investigating a possible move to the Bendigo or Riddell District league from Ballarat, plus the Ballarat league’s eastern bloc clubs - also featuring Bacchus Marsh, Darley, Melton and Melton South - meeting on Tuesday night to discuss their futures. 

Rodgers said the possibility of the breakaway league being formed had not been discussed by the Gisborne committee, while he reiterated the Bulldogs were happy in the Bendigo Football League, which they joined in 2000 from the Riddell District league.

“Unless it’s something that has a really strong long-term strategic direction to it driven by AFL Victoria, then I don’t think we would be interested,” Rodgers said on Wednesday.

“In a relatively short time we have built up a good history in the Bendigo league and we want to continue that.

“Obviously, you’d need to have a discussion about it, but I’m not a fan of changing leagues often because your club loses some of its culture and history.”

Gisborne - which clocks up just over 800 kms of travel a year in the Bendigo Football League - strongly considered a move to the Ballarat league in 2009, with the defection ultimately thwarted by the club’s members.

“The Bendigo league is a quality competition, which we want to be part of, and we have a good history here,” Rodgers said.

“I don’t see any reason why we would want to change leagues.”

AFL Central Victoria regional operations manager Justin Abrams says Gisborne is a vital member of the Bendigo league both on and off the field.

“They are an integral member of the league, and their success alone indicates just how valuable they are,” Abrams said.

“But particularly this year with Colin Rodgers as their president, they have gone up another level off the field.

“On-field they offer competitiveness and a really good playing stock, while off-field, they are doing everything right.

“They connect with the community, they understand the importance of developing within, they have long-term strategies and have just been awarded facility grants, which we helped them with.

“They are an absolutely integral member of the Bendigo Football League.”

Meanwhile, Rodgers says he welcomes the interest of the neighbouring Sunbury considering the Bendigo league as a possible new home.

Sunbury is 17kms from Gisborne, with the two clubs former Riddell District league rivals.

“If they came into the Bendigo league it would be fantastic for us,” Rodgers said.

“They are a local club for us and we have had a history of rivalry back in the old Riddell league days.

“To have a greater presence down this way would only benefit us and Kyneton if they were to come in.”

Gisborne hosts Strathfieldsaye in round eight this Saturday.

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