READ MORE - Future of inter-league championships in doubt
AFL Victoria has scrapped its Community Championships inter-league games next year, but the Bendigo Football-Netball League has its door open to finding a representative opponent.
AFL Victoria announced on Thursday that it won't "facilitate the Championships in 2020 based on feedback from clubs and leagues that the current program doesn't meet their needs".
However, AFL Victoria is encouraging leagues who still wish to participate in representative games next year to pursue match-ups, which the BFNL is open to the prospect of.
"We probably need some further information from AFL Victoria about funding and so forth to work out the impact on the representative program, but at this stage there's certainly still an appetite there, even though it's not in the same format as it has been," BFNL manager Cameron Tomlins said.
AFL Victoria has stated its main areas of feedback around the Country Championships from clubs and leagues were "concerns based around the validity of the ranking system, inconsistent levels of competition, travel, increasing costs and pressures placed on leagues, fixturing, administrative demands and player availability."
The BFNL's inter-league opponent earlier this year was Outer East, with Bendigo winning in a canter by 99 points at the QEO.
Bendigo's victory gave the league a new ranking of eight and a potential match-up next year against Western Region.
The Loddon Valley league, which returned to inter-league in 2018 following a two-year hiatus, is also open to a representative game next year if it's what clubs want.
"We'll ask our clubs to see whether it's something they want to pursue," LVFNL chairman Simon Tuohey said.
"We'll need to make a decision fairly soon on what we do because it obviously has implications on getting our fixture out, the same as other leagues.
"If the clubs want to pursue it then we'll try to find a league that is also willing to participate against us."
The Heathcote District league is bitterly disappointed in AFL Victoria's decision and has indicated it has "no interest in playing a scratch match against another league".
"We are very disappointed by today's announcement that AFL Victoria will no longer support inter-league football," HDFNL chairman Peter Cole said.
"As a league we have worked extremely hard to develop a strong inter-league culture over the past few years with many players and administrators volunteering their time and energy to support it.
"Inter-league to us was not only the opportunity to showcase our best footballers and netballers, but also give our younger players opportunities at the highest level.
"Obviously, other leagues do not feel the same way about inter-league as what we do, which is disappointing.
"I will be seeking further detail from AFL Victoria as to what they plan to do with the financial savings that abolishing inter-league will bring and how grassroots leagues like ours will benefit."
Heathcote District beat Sunraysia by 35 points earlier this year, while Loddon Valley lost to Horsham District by 34 points.
AFL VICTORIA STATEMENT IN FULL:
In recent months AFL Victoria has taken feedback on the WorkSafe AFL Victoria Community Championships and representative football in general. All clubs and Leagues, both senior and junior, across country Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne, were given the opportunity to provide feedback on the current WorkSafe AFL Victoria Community Championships and representative football.
Based on the feedback from clubs and Leagues across the state, AFL Victoria will not facilitate the WorkSafe AFL Victoria Community Championships in 2020 given many stakeholders raised the current format as a concern, telling us they believe it needs an update and changes. The Metropolitan Junior Championships and V/Line Cup representative programs for juniors will remain given there was very strong support for these two programs from across the state.
The main areas of feedback around the current Championships from clubs and Leagues were based on concerns around the validity of the ranking system, inconsistent levels of competition, travel, increasing costs, and the pressure these costs place on Leagues, fixturing, administrative demands on Leagues, impact on League fixtures and player availability.
While AFL Victoria won't facilitate the Championships in 2020, based on the feedback from clubs and Leagues that the current program doesn't meet their needs, AFL Victoria would encourage Leagues to continue a representative program in 2020 if it is relevant to their League. Leagues who wish to participate in representative football in 2020 are encouraged to do so and AFL Victoria will continue to financially support Leagues who wish to pursue representative programs.
AFL Victoria will further consult clubs and Leagues around the future of the Championships and representative football during 2020.
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