Competitive balance restored to the footy force

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THE imminent introduction of player points systems and salary caps has most Gippsland football clubs optimistic of improved competitive balance.

AFL Gippsland’s long-awaited senior leagues review draft recommendations proposed no change be made in the Gippsland League, North Gippsland and Mid Gippsland competitions despite evidence of imbalance in recent seasons.

The review found nine out of 10 Gippsland League clubs felt the competitive balance in the league was good, yet the league’s average winning margin was 56.68 points last year.

North Gippsland’s was higher still at 62.68 points per game while Mid Gippsland was the lowest of the three unchanged competitions at 43.57.

Three clubs across the leagues, Warragul, Hill End and Yarram, have not featured in finals series since 2009 in their respective competitions, although Yarram has been on the cusp in each of its two seasons since transferring to North Gippsland.

AFL Gippsland region manager Travis Switzer said most clubs felt the implementation of a PPS from 2016 and a salary cap from 2017 would have a positive impact and had likely been taken into account when considering their glass half full stance on competitive balance.

“I think they (some of the weaker clubs) felt a little bit stuck the last two or three years. Some of the clubs have had seven years of losing – and significantly when you look at some of the stats,” Switzer said,

“They now see a light at the end of the tunnel, even though there’s still going to be challenges… they feel they’re going to be able to compete and at some stage get their turn to play finals and be competitive every week.”

Switzer said the review’s commitment to flexibility for clubs to seek changes of leagues based on competitive viability into the future was also well received.

AFL Gippsland chair Brian Quigley said the review process had unearthed administrative gaps at club level which would also be addressed to ensure continued viability.

“We’ve now identified at an admin level, even some of those major league clubs, they’re a long way behind the eight-ball,” he said.

“We’re now in a position to put a lot of work into those clubs to support their admin… that should help them hugely down the track.”

While competitive balance at senior level was largely deemed satisfactory, only 50 per cent of clubs felt that was the case at junior level.

Combined with ongoing concerns about junior retention, Switzer said a future review of junior football along similar lines was now likely.

The scope of the review took in factors such as population growth and decline, winning and losing margins over the past decade, premiership statistics and the relative strength of clubs in their existing leagues.