BENDIGO Netball Football League’s A-grade competition will again be minus one team in 2019.
It follows Castlemaine’s decision not to field an A-grade side for the second consecutive season.
The Magpies will be one of three clubs not fielding teams in all five grades - A-grade, A-reserve, B-grade, B-reserve and 17-and-under - this year.
Kyneton, which will make a welcome return to A-grade following a one-year hiatus, will be without a 17-and-under team, while Maryborough will be unable to field an A-reserve team.
The ability of BFNL clubs to field a full complement of netball teams in 2019 was the focus of a BFNL board meeting last Friday.
Included was a BFNL club driven proposal to consider making a structural change to match day start times for 2019.
Following overwhelming support, the 17-and-under netball start time on single court venues will be moved to the A-reserve curtain raiser.
BFNL league manager Cameron Tomlins said while disappointed some teams would be unable to field teams in certain grades, the BFNL board acknowledged the challenges faced by affected clubs.
He said the BFNL remained committed to working with all clubs to ensure that they have the full complement of netball teams for the 2020 season.
“Each club faces their own region-specific challenges and club volunteers have put in an enormous amount of effort in the search to fill these teams in 2019,” Tomlins said.
“I can confirm in conjunction with the BFNL, both parties are already working very hard to rectify the situation for the 2020 season.
“It is a great result for the Kyneton FNC and the BFNL that the club will once again be represented in the A-grade BFNL netball competition in 2019.
“All clubs must be commended for their effort during challenging circumstances and moving forward, each club has put a strong focus on their retention and junior development, which fills us with hope that these missing teams will be re-introduced for the 2020 season.
“It is important to recognise the strength of the BFNL netball competition in the region and with the support of our clubs we feel this is an exciting way to further showcase and promote junior development within our league.
“We continually aim to attract and develop the best junior talent in the region and feel that the standard of the BFNL 17-and-under netball competition deserves a chance to further showcase their skills as they aspire to compete at the highest level possible”.
Kyneton’s return to the premier grade was all but sealed following their A-reserve premiership triumph last September.
Coach Dianne Guest-Oakley told the Advertiser in January there had been a ‘resurgence’ in player interest in Kyneton, with the Tigers certain to contest all four senior grades.
Just weeks later, Maryborough went public with an appeal for players to help fill its lower grade teams.
Castlemaine has not been represented in A-grade since 2017, when the Magpies won just one game, following a winless 2016 campaign.