STEP one in the process hasn't gone to plan, but it's now apparent Maiden Gully YCW is the No.1 contender for the Bendigo Football Netball League's return to a 10-club competition.
Both the BFNL and Eagles had hoped the first piece of the transition from the Loddon Valley league would be Maiden Gully YCW entering a team into the BFNL's under-18 competition next year.
The Eagles haven't had an under-18 team since 2021, opting to withdraw it in 2022 believing the Loddon Valley league competition wasn't best serving the development of its players.
The BFNL had confirmed an intention of acceptance for the Eagles to join its under-18s next year, which would have kept the competition at 10 teams following the defection of Kyneton to the Riddell District league.
However, the Eagles' potential inclusion was subsequently appealed by the Loddon Valley league, with that appeal upheld by the AFL Central Victoria commission on Thursday night.
BFNL FRUSTRATIONS WITH THE COMMISSION
Thursday night's decision continues the BFNL's frustration this year with the AFLCV commission following the proposals that were tabled by AFLCV in August that mooted what would have been the biggest shake-up to football in the region since the early 1980s.
Among the models proposed for as early as next year by AFLCV was the BFNL becoming a two-division competition with promotion and relegation.
While the proposed shake-up ultimately ended in no change to competition structures in the region for 2024, it was a saga that ultimately contributed to Kyneton ending its history in the BFNL that stretched back to 1932 and joining the Riddell District league, while the BFNL board was bitterly disappointed in the lack of consultation throughout.
Similar to the reaction from Maiden Gully YCW to Thursday night's decision, a major source of frustration for the BFNL is the lack of information in the response from AFLCV as to why the Eagles' under-18s were denied entry for 2024.
"The commission has met and made a decision and we got no information on the reasoning or justification behind it," BFNL chair Carol McKinstry said.
"I'm going to be writing to the commission to provide us with rationale as to why they upheld the appeal... all they have said is it was after careful consideration.
I'm going to be writing to the commission to provide us with rationale as to why they upheld the appeal... all they have said is it was after careful consideration- Carol McKinstry
"We are deeply disappointed that once again the commission has seen fit to disadvantage their premier league in the region and they just seem to have a bias towards the district leagues.
"This comes on the back of the major reason we lost a club this year (Kyneton) is because of the commission coming out and saying they'd have a two division competition in our league without even consulting us.
"We haven't met with the commission since March and I will be seeking a meeting with them because we are frustrated.
"We have a strategic plan in regards to adding another club; I don't know if they have a strategic plan.
"A saying I constantly say is if we treat all leagues the same in the region then all leagues will look the same and that's the way it's going.
"In terms of having a premier competition they just seem keen to drag us down to the same level as the other leagues, which shouldn't be part of the strategic vision for the region."
The Bendigo Advertiser has sought comment from AFLCV commission chairman Nicholas Rolfe in regards to Thursday night's decision.
Maiden Gully YCW now having its sights set on a future in the BFNL - potentially as early as 2025 - comes on the back of the Eagles in 2022 and this year having two unsuccessful attempts at leaving the LVFNL for the Heathcote District league.
The club's recent appointments of senior coaches Shawn Filo and Angus Monfries was made with an eye towards a future in the BFNL.
While the Eagles are traditionally always a strong netball program, there's an enormous amount of work to be done from a competitive football perspective given in the senior competition Maiden Gully YCW was this year's wooden-spooner and has won just 12 of 43 games post the COVID-abandoned 2020 season.
"Looking at Maiden Gully we see the population growth in the area, the strength of their juniors and desire of the club to work hard to meet the minimum standards required (to join the BFNL)," McKinstry said.
"But this (the under-18 rejection) is a setback because in terms of their players coming through into their under-18s and flowing onto the seniors, they will have a missing piece in terms of that normal transition.
"One of the questions I'll be asking the commission is what do you see as the future for us as a league?
One of the questions I'll be asking the commission is what do you see as the future for us as a league?- Carol McKinstry
"Do you want to take away some of our clubs to reduce the number of clubs in our league; is this part of a ploy to stop us having 10 clubs in our league."
On the prospect of the Eagles joining the BFNL as early as 2025, McKinstry answered: "We'll be working really hard for that and I imagine Maiden Gully will be as well.
"But for the meantime we're disappointed that this is the decision made on their under-18s without any justification or rationale."