Calls for football-netball unity

A Gippsland netball representative is calling for more unification and equality within football and netball leagues.

Netball Victoria eastern region manager Judi Buhagiar’s shout out came after the Mid Gippsland Football League and Netball Association made the decision to hold vote counts on separate evenings.

“Just when you think you’re moving ahead a hurdle like a decision to host vote count on separate nights comes in,” Buhagiar said.

The football vote count will be held at Morwell RSL on Monday, 1 September, while the netball vote count will be held Monday, 25 August at Yinnar Recreation Reserve.

Buhagiar said netball was being seen as an “add-on” to football in some Gippsland leagues, rather than an integral part of the sport’s landscape.

She suggested football and netball departments could enter into a Memorandum of Understanding at the beginning of each season or when planning for the following season.

“This would allow input as to what will work best for both, and take it from something that’s just functioning to something that’s really productive,” Buhagiar said.

She said there should be more emphasis on how to grow both sports and do what was best for the community.

“If you look at North Gippsland, Gippsland and Alberton, they seem to work really well together at the highest level.

“All we want to see is for that to happen within these other associations that are few steps behind.”

Buhagiar said while progress had been made in the area, the MGFL decision was a step away from best practice.

MGFL president Gary Matthews said the league had received complaints from members of several clubs about the evenings being too long and the decision was made to address this.

“It was put to us that it was too long and we decided to shorten it up with two separate nights,” Matthews said.

Matthews said the evenings usually ran for at least three hours, with a lot of people leaving before the end.

He said no concerns about the arrangement creating a divide between football and netball were raised when coming to the decision, and maintained length of time was the primary consideration.

“The junior one is still together… there’s two football and two netball (grades),” Matthews said.

“Because you’ve got four netball and two football in the senior vote count.. six counts takes a long time.”

Netball Association president Jackie McGlade said the league had unsuccessfully requested to separate evenings last year, but this year the association agreed to the arrangement as a trial.

“It was part of mutual arrangement. They wanted to try it on a different night and we just thought we’d go with it this year,” McGlade said.

“We like having it on the same night, but we’re prepared to do a trial to see how it goes.

“The footy league have said some clubs wanted it (separate), but some clubs want it the other way.”

McGlade said having the vote counts at the same venue benefited families made up of both footballers and netballers as well as promoting a united approach.

She said the success of the trial would be known when clubs submitted their feedback.

“If the clubs don’t like it it’s up to them to say. If they don’t like what’s been happening then they need to step up and change it,” McGlade said.

Buhagiar said other leagues, such as Alberton, had success with the format of a formal dinner while both football and netball counts were heard, with clubs requested to send eight representatives of their choosing.