AFL Canberra have defended their decision to restructure the local senior competitions despite calls that it will result in the death of regional based clubs.
Regional clubs Yass, Cooma, Cootamundra, and Goulburn, have been placed in Fifth Grade as they only provide one team.
All remaining clubs have been placed in Third and Fourth Grade as AFL Canberra seeks to create a strong game day culture by having all clubs with two teams playing at the same venue every weekend.
AFL Canberra Regional Manager Steven Mahar cited the move as having been made to promote the growth of clubs in the area, with an aim to ensure that the existing clubs remain viable.
“A real focus for us is the culture of game day. To turn up for one game when the team from the same club is playing elsewhere, is a strain on resources and volunteers.”
The game’s governing body in the area faced a backlash following the restructure, leading to scathing assessments that labelled them ‘hopelessly out of touch’.
Cooma Cats President Adam Asanovski led a chorus of regional club representatives claiming that that AFL Canberra’s move shows that the sustainability of the regional clubs is not of any significant importance to them.
“They haven’t openly stated that they don’t care about us, but they have openly stated that their primary objective was the game-day alignment for clubs with two teams.”
“We are struggling for numbers. We have definitely lost one player [due to the increased travel]. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but when we’re struggling already, losing one player… it can make a difference.”
However, the move has had a positive effect on the two-team clubs in the opening rounds of the season.
The Molonglo Juggernauts have been able to call upon Reserve Grade players to back up for the Senior side after a horror injury run has left the club with a gaping hole in their list.
Head Coach Trevor Treloar believes that the addition of former Division One/Two teams ANU and ADFA to Third and Fourth Grade provides an opportunity to lift the standard of football in the area.
“We had a good season [last year]. If you’re the leader of the pack you always need someone to chase.
We’re back in that position where we’ve been given a challenge, and it’s up to us to accept that challenge.”
To hear from Adam Asanovski, Steven Mahar, and Trevor Treloar, hit play below.
Audio piece produced for UCFM.