IT IS with great intrigue I read the latest article surrounding the current debate about the future of football and netball in the Limestone Coast region.
I remind myself that it was nine years ago that the now defunct Victorian Country Football League decided to “take” clubs such as Portland, Hamilton and Hamilton Imperials out of the Western Border Football League (WBFL) to strengthen regional football and netball in regional Victoria.
I still believe that decision was the correct one for Victorian country football and netball.
The impact of that decision completely changed the landscape of football and netball across a wide geographic region, not only in Mount Gambier, but also across the south-west Victoria region and, of course, Casterton.
Unfortunately at the time, many locals only considered the impact on the local affected areas.
The reality was that it changed the football and netball landscape across the entire Limestone Coast region.
Many talented and not-so-talented footballers became disgruntled with the six-team league and either left the area or completely lost interest in the sport that they once loved.
Irrespective of which league you were affiliated with (WBFL, MSEFL or KNTFL) all leagues were affected.
Football and netball are part and parcel of the fabric of country Australia and ongoing analysis and decisions need to be made to ensure that those who want to participate either actively or as supporters have every avenue to be part of a football/netball club – juniors and seniors.
I recall not long after 2012 a number of custodians of the WBFL tried in vain to get the SANFL to assist us to set up a sustainable solution to the football and netball environment that we had been thrust into. Unfortunately they buried their heads in the sands of the Glenelg beach and did not want to know about the issues that confronted us.
This was a massive kick in the guts for the region as the SANFL continued to publicly spruik that they were supporting the area but when it came to actively working with the region, they were nowhere to be found. So the WBFL tried to work with the MSEFL & KNTFL to set up a long term future for all concerned.
The more I analyse that period in the WBFL I now realise that most people involved in the other leagues firmly believe that we were only trying to shore up the future of our six clubs.
I don’t have a problem with that thinking because we Australians have always believed that if “it ain’t broken then don’t try and fix it”.
The reality was that there were a number of hard-working people across the six clubs who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to not only secure a future for their clubs but for the entire region.
I recall a number of WBFL meetings that were very robust, stressful and at times became very personal.
For some of those delegates it became all too hard and for some it became an even greater mission to get the future of football and netball back on track.
Unfortunately the knock backs from the other leagues and individual clubs took its toll and the once glowing light was finally snuffed out.
I must say that we at the time were acting as custodians of our league and the greater good of the larger community was always the centre of attention.
Having left the area in 2016 I am now an electronic subscriber of The Border Watch and have the luxury of still be able to read the local news.
Wow, I would like to see this Gene Robinson go around – looks like the kid can play. I digress.
So we move on to 2021 and it appears that there is now some movement to “change” the landscape.
I now look from afar but I still look with a passion to see football and netball played and supported in a sustainable environment with the right systems and administrators in place.
I just hope that unlike when we tried to pull it all together that all of those who are currently involved are all supportive of the change as long as it is in the best interest of all clubs. The reality is that not everyone will like it but if the majority do and it is set up to support everyone (kids etc) then it needs to be embraced.
More importantly, egos need to be left at the front door and good administrators need to be positioned to support the footballers/netballers of today and the future.
I am seeing way to often in regional Australia the decline of many local football/netball clubs because in many respects the custodians of these once might community clubs are stubborn and believe merging or even talking about mergers is taboo.
They believe their clubs will lose their identities.
In some cases that may be true but going forward, isn’t it more important to have a structure in place where the local youth can still enjoy playing football and netball?
I wish those involved in administering the new-look football and netball landscape the greatest of luck and support from afar.
Former WBFL club president
READERS HAVE THEIR SAY ONLINE
OPTION three seems plausible especially for communities like Kalangadoo, Nangwarry, Casterton Sandford, Mount Burr and Glencoe as games played at, say for example, Casterton wouldn’t be no means different in terms of travel time as it only takes between 46 minutes to an hour and seven minutes pending on location travelling from – it may take a little longer. ROBBIE