AS the Gippsland League celebrates its massive interleague victory over Yarra Valley Mountain DFL at the weekend, the reward for regaining eighth-place on the Victoria Country ladder is all too familiar.
The result sets up another showdown with seventh-placed Bendigo, likely away from home, for the third time in five years, with the higher ranked team traditionally afforded the right to host.
Suffering Groundhog Day syndrome, the interleague rotation has seen the Gippsland League stuck in the same cycle for some time.
Gippsland League (8) plays Bendigo (7) at Bendigo and loses, the next year, Bendigo (6) plays Ballarat (5) at Ballarat and loses, while Gippsland League (9) plays Yarra Valley (10) in Gippsland and wins, setting up another GL (8) v Bendigo (7) match in Bendigo.
With d j vu setting in, Gippsland League chair Greg Maidment said it would be nice to tackle Bendigo at home but acknowledged it was a right to be earned.
“You would expect the winning team gets the advantage of hosting and we would love the opportunity to face them on our own turf, but we are prepared to meet them anywhere,” Maidment said.
“It will be the fourth time in seven years we have travelled to Bendigo and we are determined to break through and win our way back into the top six.”
Maidment said the encouraging backing of clubs this season held the league in good stead to make a move against Bendigo regardless of location.
“Our main aim was obviously to win the senior football and start working our back up the rankings to where we think we belong and we did that with a very professional performance (on Saturday),” he said.
“We had great support from the clubs this year, so we thank them for that and trust it will continue.
“As a league board we have every confidence in (coach) Steve (Hazelman) to prepare us for Bendigo next year.”
Despite the recurring pattern facing the GL squad, AFL Victoria community football operations manager Gerard Ryan said it was not a theme shared all the way down the ladder and was adamant upward mobility was possible.
“At all levels there has been significant change in the rankings and while there is a small selection of leagues who have moved seemingly on rotation, overall the rankings has provided leagues with the opportunity to climb or drop down the standings,” Ryan said.
“A case in point is South East FNL (formerly known as Casey Cardinia), which is fixtured to play the Yarra Valley Mountain DFNL for the first time in 2016 and in 2017 could prove to be the Gippsland League opponent, if they lose against Bendigo.”
Ryan also pointed to the Heathcote and District FNL as a big mover, which has now jumped above three of the formerly ranked major leagues to be positioned at 15.
“There has been several examples of leagues who have significantly improved their rankings over the past five years and we expect this to continue,” he said.
“A number of leagues have won three or four years in succession and as a result have moved up as many as seven spots during this time.”
He also highlighted that the higher ranked side was not guaranteed to host the annual encounter, giving hope to a Gippsland League challenge on home turf.
“Under the current system, the higher ranked league is not guaranteed to host,” Ryan said.
“Geelong and the Peninsula FL both travelled to play matches against lower ranked opposition this year. In both these cases the away team won, which also occurred in seven of the 16 matches played.
“In determining the fixture, AFL Victoria takes into account a number of considerations, including the location of previous interleague matches and the travelling required.”
Ryan said AFL Victoria was confident the current ranking system was largely supported by the leagues involved, and while under constant review was unlikely to change in the near future.