THE Gippsland League will have its best shot this decade at usurping Bendigo next year when it plays host to its perennial representative rival.
For the fourth time in seven years the two regions will square off in May’s interleague round, but 2016 marks the first opportunity for Gippsland to play at home against its higher-ranked opponent.
The encounter has traditionally been a playoff for seventh on the country ladder, but AFL Victoria changes to the interleague format will see the sides duke it out for an interim spot, presumably 11th and 12th, prior to the advent of a new ladder.
Four metropolitan leagues have been inserted at the top of the newly dubbed “AFL Victoria Community Championship” for the first time, transforming the traditionally country exclusive competition in a reshuffle to the current hierarchy.
Eastern, Northern, Essendon District and Western Region will now field interleague sides in the community championship, following the return of representative football to those leagues with the metropolitan championships in 2014.
This year’s results will contribute to an official ranking of leagues from 2017 and beyond with country sides Peninsula and Goulburn Valley getting first crack at their city counterparts, Northern and Essendon respectively.
See the full story and GL coach Steve Hazelman’s take in next week’s Express