League merge

March 30, 2018

PDFNL president Denis Brooks.

AFL Goulburn Murray general manager Martin Gleeson.

PDFNL operations manager Shane Railton.

The Picola District Football Netball League will be merged back into one competition for the 2018 season.

The decision was made on Monday morning with 13 of the 17 clubs deciding to stay with the Picola League, following its split from AFL Goulburn Murray.

The league has been split into two divisions — North-West and South-East — for the past nine seasons, in order to cut down travelling distances for clubs.

South-East clubs Tungamah, Shepparton East, Dookie United and Katandra will not contest the Picola League this season, opting to remain affiliated with AFLGM which this week will help facilitate a move for the clubs to other local competitions.

The new PDFNL competition will consist of Deni Rovers, Blighty, Mathoura, Katunga, Waaia, Katamatite, Tocumwal, Berrigan, Jerilderie, Picola United, Yarroweyah, Strathmerton and Rennie.

PDFNL president Denis Brooks said the start of the season will not be delayed with the Good Friday clash between Tocumwal and Berrigan to go ahead as planned.

‘‘We’ve only got the one Good Friday game and that will go ahead,’’ Brooks said.

‘‘It will just have to be factored into the draw.

‘‘We will be asking for clubs to give an indication of their preferences for the draw and we will go around and try to meet everyone’s requirements.’’

The PDFNL’s first full round of matches will begin as planned on April 7.

PDFNL operations manager Shane Railton yesterday said the league had drafted a draw that was still awaiting confirmation at the time of print.

‘‘We had a pretty good idea that merging back to one competition is where it would end up,’’ Railton said.

‘‘We’ll definitely have a 20 round competition with every club having two byes before the finals.

‘‘We will also revert back to the top eight teams featuring in finals.

‘‘The round one fixture shouldn’t change too much either.

‘‘The Rovers will still host Strathmerton and obviously we will still have Tocumwal take on Berrigan on Good Friday.’’

Railton said he was very understanding of the four clubs’ decision to leave.

‘‘There’s no doubt we didn’t want to lose any club but it is what it is,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re quite happy that traditional Picola League clubs have chosen to stay with us.

‘‘It’s also pleasing that newer clubs to the league like Tocumwal and Rennie have stuck by us as well. They’re both a good fit in the Picola League, being towns that are surrounded by farming communities.’’

Negotiations for the Picola League to re-affiliate with AFLGM next year will go ahead as planned, and Brooks left the door open for clubs which have chosen to leave his organisation this year to return for next season if a new agreement was signed.

‘‘That’s absolutely our aim, to get to the negotiation table early and talk about next year,’’ Brooks said.

‘‘Those clubs that have chosen to stay (affiliated with AFLGM) have made those decisions with what is best for their club in mind.

‘‘I don’t begrudge them that at all, and none of it is personal.

‘‘Any clubs wanting to return would be discussed as part of a new agreement as it would shape the structure of the league.’’

The immediate future of the four clubs that have chosen to leave the PDFNL was still up in the air when the Southern Riverina News went to print yesterday.

AFLGM general manager Martin Gleeson held a meeting between the four clubs on Monday night.

‘‘We had a good turnout at the meeting with representatives from the football and netball departments, as well as members from the administration from each club,’’ Mr Gleeson said yesterday.

‘‘Discussions with the Murray League and the KDFL (Kyabram & District) to accommodate these teams have started.

‘‘The preference is that all four sides stay together in joining one of these two leagues.

‘‘The clubs also didn’t rule out the option of a four-team competition but their preference is to join a current league.

‘‘Obviously there is no chance of these clubs playing this weekend so if they were to join the Murray League, there is potential to catch up on the missed game during the year.

‘‘It’s still a work in progress but everyone is keen to move on and play footy and netball.’’

The Southern Riverina News contacted local Picola District Football Netball League club presidents for their view on the competition no longer being split into two divisions. Here are the responses:

Michael Norman (Blighty): I think this decision suits us and it makes our league a lot stronger. Playing against clubs like Waaia and Katunga again creates more competition for us. Going forward, we have 12 months to find a resolution to the issues with AFLGM which could mean this competition could be restructured again. But for now we believe the PDFNL board are doing a fantastic job.

Mal Hart (Tocumwal): We’ve been to a meeting with all the clubs and from those meetings we understood that some clubs would leave. There is some slight trepidation about moving forward with the (new) draw but our focus is to get the season started. I think a majority of clubs want affiliation (with AFLGM) but not at any cost. Our club will now look to the footy on Friday. We’re expecting to have a crowd of over 2000 people.

Dean Knight (Jerilderie): I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s good for our club to manage ourselves the way we want. I think everyone is prepared for travel when they play football and netball and in this case it’s not much further. Our aim is to get on with it, have fun and play football.

Stuart Schifferle (Berrigan): It’s probably going to make things interesting. We have a few connections at the other clubs (from the South-East division) so it will be good to catch up with them again. The extra two games and new draw won’t worry us.

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