Maryborough saying no to Central Highlands move

STAYING PUT: Maryborough has no interest in leaving the Bendigo Football-Netball League for the Central Highlands competition. Picture: ADAM BOURKE
STAYING PUT: Maryborough has no interest in leaving the Bendigo Football-Netball League for the Central Highlands competition. Picture: ADAM BOURKE

MARYBOROUGH has reaffirmed its commitment to the Bendigo Football-Netball League, rejecting the option of joining the Central Highlands competition.

A major shake-up of football-netball in the Goldfields region is mooted following the release of draft review recommendations this week.

The 34-page AFL Goldfields Senior Competition Review – in which BFNL clubs Maryborough and Gisborne were interviewed for – features draft recommendations that include the establishment of a new Goldfields District Football-Netball League, plus a revamped Central Highlands competition.

The draft recommendations for both the new Goldfields District league and restructured Central Highlands competitions feature clubs involved in the Maryborough-Castlemaine District league.

As part of its review interview, the Central Highlands option was presented to Maryborough, but president Brendan Roughead says the club, despite its struggles of recent years, has no intention of leaving the Bendigo league.

“We were asked if we wanted to join the Central Highlands league and our response was we want to remain a premier league club and that’s what we are in the Bendigo league,” Roughead said this week.

I couldn’t see a benefit in us going to the Central Highlands league. Our point of difference is we’re in a premier competition.

Brendan Roughead - Maryborough president

“Our desire is to be a strong and sustainable club in the Bendigo league and we’re working really hard to achieve that.

“I know we haven’t necessarily achieved that in recent years, but we’re working hard on it.

“I couldn’t see a benefit in us going to the Central Highlands league. Our point of difference is we’re in a premier competition.”

Meanwhile, the key findings in the report related to Gisborne states the Bulldogs “would be interested” in returning to their previous competition – the Riddell District league – if eastern bloc Ballarat league clubs were also to rejoin to create a division one league.

Gisborne joined the Bendigo league from the Riddell District competition in 2000.

Former Riddell District clubs Sunbury, Melton, Melton South and Darley all now play in the Ballarat league as eastern bloc clubs.

Gisborne president John Wood says only a potential improved Riddell District competition with former clubs returning that the Bulldogs once shared rivalries with would spark any interest in a move out of the Bendigo league.

“In terms of the Riddell District league scenario, there’s rivalries from a while ago and through juniors with other clubs that are local to us,” Wood said.

“But having said that, Gisborne left the Riddell league to play in a better standard of competition, which Bendigo is and that’s where we’re at.”

Gisborne reiterated it had no interest in joining the Ballarat league as a sixth eastern bloc club.

The Ballarat league has tried four times previously – the last being in 2009 when it was almost successful – to lure Gisborne.

“The conversation we had with AFL Goldfields was essentially there would be no gain for us in joining the Ballarat league from a financial point of view,” Wood said.

“The lead-on from that comment was then if we’re talking about financial benefits, we’d be better off involved with those other clubs close to our proximity when some of the old rivalries would be renewed from years ago when we were in the Riddell District league. That’s the context in which it was raised.

“But as it stands right now, we are entirely happy in the Bendigo league.”

It’s proposed the new Goldfields District Football-Netball League be formed in 2019, unless there is a majority of recommended clubs that wish for it to be introduced next year.

The 10 clubs recommended include Maryborough-Castlemaine District clubs Trentham and Lexton.

A revamped Central Highlands competition from its current 18 clubs back to 12 includes Maryborough-Castlemaine District power Carisbrook as one of the recommended clubs.

The review draft recommendations also state “there is a general acceptance by all MCDFNL clubs that there are too many clubs within the vicinity of Maryborough. The review recommends that AFL Goldfields and the MCDFNL work closely with all clubs into the future to present and facilitate merger packages when and if required.”

The MCDFNL is a 14-club league.

The review was compiled following an analysis of 55 club surveys and 63 club, league and umpiring association interviews.

A September 15 deadline has been set for feedback, but the cut-off could be extended.