THE Bendigo Football-Netball League board will meet with its country clubs in the coming weeks to discuss their united front in which they are seeking ways to improve their competitiveness.
The league’s four country clubs – Castlemaine, Gisborne, Kyneton and Maryborough – have met in recent weeks to discuss their individual issues in what has become a competition in which city-based clubs have taken a stranglehold on.
"From a league’s point of view, given those clubs have gone to the trouble of getting together as a group and discussing some ideas, we’d like to sit down with them and have a chat,” BFNL manager Cameron Tomlins said on Wednesday.
“But in saying that, these sort of catch-ups with clubs and discussions are tabled regularly throughout the year.”
The driver of the country clubs uniting is Kyneton president Karen O’Sullivan, who told the Bendigo Advertiser last month: “It has been long enough now where it’s either expected or accepted that the country clubs will end up towards the bottom of the ladder or with the wooden spoon.
“We think it’s time the league acknowledges there isn’t a level playing field and that there’s some genuine attempts to fix it”.
Among the issues that have been discussed by the country clubs is their smaller population base in comparison to Bendigo and the challenges that provides from not only a recruiting perspective, but also in attracting sponsorship support.
“We know that each club has its own specific challenge and I’ve been doing a lot of research into investigating each one and the ways in which the league might be able to help in strengthening their programs and structures,” Tomlins said.
“I believe it’s important those clubs find their point of difference in their region, one of which is we’re a major league, given there’s a lot of leagues and less players to spread around.
“I strongly feel that if we can assist the clubs in strengthening their structures and programs to make them more inviting to potential recruits would be a good starting point because we want these clubs to be sustainable and around for a long term.”
Since 2010 across all grades of football and netball in the BFNL:
• 76 per cent of home and away games have been won by city clubs; 24 per cent by country clubs.
• the spread of finals teams is 80 per cent city and 20 per cent country;
• the split of premierships is 88 per cent city and just 12 per cent country.
This year’s senior football finals did feature two country-based clubs for the first time since 2008 in both Kyneton, which finished top five for the fourth year in a row, and Gisborne, while the Bulldogs also won the under-18 premiership.
However, Gisborne of 2013 still remains the last country club to have won a senior final, and the Bulldogs of 2006 the last to have won a senior flag.
And in the 28 years of netball in the BFNL, Gisborne in 2013 is the only country-based club to have won an A Grade premiership.
“It’s important to have those clubs outside of Bendigo where the talent pool is only so big,” Tomlins said.
“It has been pointed out that Bendigo-based clubs have a bigger pool to draw from, but there is also three other leagues in the region that rely heavily on drawing players from Bendigo.
“We want to work with those non-Bendigo clubs, listen to their suggestions and see what we can take out of it moving forward.”
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