The Traralgon and District Junior Football League says AFL Gippsland’s decision not to progress with a recommendation to abolish its under 16s competition has “granted us a reprieve”.
TEDAS president Matt Addison said the TDJFL was most concerned with the shift from junior to senior football environments for children and appealed the draft recommendation with “a unified approach”.
“Our main objection which was to the difference in ages, the 14-year-olds playing against 17-year-olds which was a major concern, Addison said.
In its submission to AFL Gippsland, TEDAS outlined several objections to the formation of an under 17s competition in replacement of existing age structures in all but two of the league’s senior competitions.
“We … firmly believe that the proposal is regressive and will result in significantly decreased participation levels in children aged 14 to 16 years,” the letter read.
“The increased size, strength and abilities of opponents coupled with the increased risk of injury will only be a further deterrent to the bottom-aged players.”
The club also raised concerns about volunteer and player numbers and “the more liberal and confronting” culture of senior clubs.
AFL Gippsland region general manager Ben Joske said the decision to keep the TDJFL under 16 competition was made because feedback suggested “clubs just weren’t ready for that change”, but he would not rule out future change.
“While those changes and pressures on the clubs to find those numbers still remain, we just thought it was best to put that off for a period of time and work with those clubs to try and develop a structure that everyone’s comfortable with,” Joske said.
“The East Gippsland [Football] League are confident they can make [the under 17s competition] work in their space, so we’ll use that as a bit of a trial for the rest of Gippsland and work with local clubs and develop a working group over the next 12 months to recommend something moving into 2020.”
Addison also raised concerns surrounding the feedback process and time afforded to clubs to formulate their objections to the recommendations.
“Really, the timing was very poor, to give us basically a short deadline to form a response and on the eve of the grand final left a really bitter taste in our mouths,” Addison said.
“We understood there was a lot of work going into it and we appreciate it, but the way it was done and forced on everyone, we didn’t accept.”
However, Joske maintained the review process was extensive and there were “mandated deadlines” AFL Gippsland had to meet with AFL Victoria.
“We understand [the deadlines] were tight, but there’s an understanding that we needed to do that, and some of that was surrounding the need to position ourselves for next year and the expectations of AFL Victoria,” Joske said.