READ MORE - Future of inter-league championships in doubt
AFL Victoria's abandonment of its Community Championships program has essentially left it up to leagues to organise their own games for next year if they wish to continue to participate in representative matches.
So while there may not be inter-league as we've long known it with leagues playing for both pride and to climb ranking positions, the door remains ajar for representative games.
In fact, despite pulling the pin on the Community Championships, AFL Victoria says it will continue to financially support leagues who wish to pursue representative games in 2020.
The early indication from the Bendigo Football-Netball League is that it will be one of those leagues keen to provide its players with a representative opportunity next year.
Had the Community Championships continued in the current format, Bendigo would have been locked into its opponent for next year based on the ranking positions.
As the rankings currently stood, No.8 Bendigo was headed for a match-up with the No.7-ranked Western Region league.
However, AFL Victoria's announcement on Thursday - albeit disappointing for one of country footy's great traditions - has created somewhat of a blank canvas for leagues and potential representative opponents in 2020.
BFNL manager Cameron Tomlins said in response to the AFL Victoria announcement that while the league would need further information before making a decision, the appetite for representative games was still there for the league.
So what would be an appealing match-up for Bendigo to seek out if it does pursue a representative opponent next year?
Of course, Ballarat and the goldfields sporting rivalry that exists between the two cities immediately springs to mind.
And Ballarat has already indicated its desire to retain an inter-league presence next year.
Ballarat league co-chairman Robert Allan told the Ballarat Courier last week when it was widely touted that AFL Victoria would pull the pin on its Community Championships format that the competition was committed to senior representative football next year.
However, Bendigo vs Ballarat inter-league feels a bit overdone in recent years.
Since 2009 Bendigo and Ballarat have met four times - 2009 (Bendigo won by 21 points in an upset); 2013 (Ballarat won by 23); 2015 (Ballarat won by 77); and 2017 (Ballarat won by 11).
And therein lies one of the issues that has plagued inter-league since it reverted back to one-off games in 2010 based on ranking positions.
Bendigo can certainly attest to the monotony of inter-league opponents under the ranking system whereby you go up the list if you win and down if you lose.
Between 2009 and 2019 Bendigo played 11 inter-league games, which included four each against Ballarat and Gippsland.
From 2012 to 2017 Bendigo played only Ballarat and Gippsland in what became a case of groundhog day.
So here's an opportunity for something fresh - why not Bendigo set its sights on having a crack at the Goulburn Valley league: the Blue and Gold taking on the Purple and Gold.
It's a match-up that hasn't happened since 2001, although, the less said about that day the better - the Goulburn Valley league won by 60 points.
So here's an opportunity for something fresh - why not Bendigo set its sights on having a crack at the Goulburn Valley league
The GVFL has long been renowned as one of country Victoria's premier leagues that beat Western Region by 41 points earlier this year.
That was the same day the Bendigo league smashed Outer East by 99 points at the QEO in the most one-sided game of the 2019 Community Championships.
But that result too speaks to more of the issues identified by AFL Victoria in announcing its decision - inconsistent levels of competition and travel.
The address of the AFL Outer East office is in Kilsyth - almost 200kms from Bendigo.
As far as the Goulburn Valley goes, it's Bendigo's nearest neighbouring major league given Rochester and Echuca are both close enough to be former BFNL clubs.
Rankings-wise - not that it's the be-all and end-all - there isn't a huge difference between the two leagues.
Under the revised rankings following this year's Community Championships Goulburn Valley was at four and Bendigo eight.
There's the choice of Bendigo's Queen Elizabeth Oval or Shepparton's Deakin Reserve - two of country Victoria's premier ovals that a clash could be played on.
While it may be the best part of 20 years since their last meeting, the leagues have history, including four tussles during the '80s - Bendigo winning two and Goulburn Valley two.
Darryl Wilson, who coached Bendigo it its drubbing of Outer East this year, agrees that Goulburn Valley is the league he'd most like to have a crack at.
"This is only my view, not that of the league, but why not try to get a game against the GV and see how we go," Wilson says.
"We're close in proximity and I think it would be a great challenge."
But if Goulburn Valley isn't an option given there are already indications it may be involved in a clash with Ovens and Murray, perhaps given the way the Heathcote District league is growing from strength to strength with the calibre of its recruits it could field a more than handy side led by feisty coach Nick Carter to test its mettle against Bendigo.
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