Bulldogs players desperate to stay in Bendigo Football League

WITH Gisborne members to next week vote on where the club will play next year, six of the Bulldogs’ senior players who have been integral in the club’s Bendigo Football League success say they are happy where they are.Gisborne will next Tuesday vote on a move to either stay in the Bendigo Football League - where the Bulldogs have played since 2000 - or join the Ballarat Football League next year as its 12th club.The Gisborne committee has already voted in favour of joining the Ballarat league next year; however, such a move would need the support of the Bulldogs’ members, many of whom are players.While the majority of the committee last month voted in favour of a move to Ballarat, one member opposed was coach Ty Elliott, who has had a tough initiation as senior coach this year, with the shadow of uncertainty hanging over the club since Ballarat announced on May 30 its intention to try to lure Gisborne.“It has been three years since we last won a premiership in the Bendigo Football League, and clubs have obviously taken some enjoyment this year in beating us,” Elliott told The Advertiser yesterday.“We’re certainly not a dominant force and it would be just nice to rebuild and win a premiership again in the Bendigo Football League.”Gisborne was addressed by officials from both the Bendigo and Ballarat football leagues on Tuesday night, with both parties giving a 10-minute presentation.As part of the information night, Gisborne captain Anthony Belcher spoke passionately of his desire for the club to remain a member of the Bendigo league in 2010 and beyond.“The main point I tried to make was, why go?” Belcher said.“Ballarat is trying to promote the fact of better rivalries, less travel and other financial gains.“But I basically said if we need another $40,000 per year that Ballarat is offering, there’s other ways we can go about getting it.“It’s obviously going to take a lot of work, but I would rather see that happen . . . “We’ve got rivalries with clubs in the Bendigo league, having been here for 10 years now, and I just don’t see any point in leaving.“With the freeway the way it is now, it’s just a short drive up to Bendigo, so travel is no factor.”Also keen for the Bulldogs to remain is Luke Saunders, one of the most revered players in the Bendigo league.Saunders is not only a dual Gisborne premiership captain, but won the 2005 Michelsen Medal and captained the BFL to its Pool C inter-league title in 2006.“Initially, when we came to the Bendigo league (from the Riddell District Football League) we were looking to go to a better standard,” Saunders said.“It was a challenge for us to go to that next standard, and at the moment we still have those challenges.“I don’t think going to the Ballarat league is necessarily a greater challenge, and with the way we’re at at the moment, we can’t afford to change leagues.“The Bendigo league has been great for us and I think the feeling is mutual . . . we respect the league, and the league respects us.“I’ve had eight or nine years playing here and we’ve got some great rivalries, and along with that comes good friendships.“I’ve made a lot of good friends through the Bendigo football community and it’s something I don’t want to change.”Rod Sharp has played more than 200 senior games for Gisborne and believes “if it isn’t broke, why fix it”.“There’s no doubt that we went into the Bendigo league 10 years ago to challenge us,” Sharp said.“Getting Mick McGuane as coach (in 2002) was able to help set up a successful decade for us.“We’ve had 10 years in this league now and we don’t want to be seen as a club that just jumps around from league to league.”One of the leading contenders for this Sunday’s Michelsen Medal is Bulldogs hard-nut Ollie Messaoudi, who was captain of the Bendigo team that defeated Ballarat in their inter-league clash at Bacchus Marsh in May.“I don’t really see the point in switching leagues unless you’re going to a better competition, or you’re not good enough any more for the competition you are in,” Messaoudi said.“With the financial benefits Ballarat say we will get, they obviously want us to go there, so they are going to gloss it up as much as they can.“One of the things said last night was a move to Ballarat would rekindle rivalries with the likes of (former RDFL clubs) Sunbury and Melton, but I wasn’t part of that with Gisborne back in those days.“We’ve now got our own rivalries now with the likes of Golden Square and Eaglehawk.”Also strong on Gisborne remaining in the Bendigo league was Bulldogs veteran Matt McKenzie.“We’ve set up a couple of good rivalries within the Bendigo league, we know what we need to be competitive in this league, whereas we would be going into Ballarat blind,” McKenzie said.“Basically, I don’t have any problems with the Bendigo Football League.“With the Ballarat Football League, my personal opinion is it’s going into the unknown, but you also have things like the conditions you would be playing in there.“And what happens after 10 years in the Ballarat league, do we then look to move on somewhere else?“Ten years ago when we came into Bendigo, it was to play at a higher standard, but we wouldn’t be going to Ballarat to play in a higher standard.”Elliott, Belcher, Saunders, Sharp, Messaoudi and McKenzie are all members of the recently-named Gisborne Team of the Decade, and have played in a combined 17 Bendigo Football League premierships for the Bulldogs.Next week’s vote will take place just four days before the Gisborne reserves play in the grand final.

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