Gippy League ready for all-star weekend

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THE Gippsland League has a league-wide bye this weekend.

The league is breaking for a modern incarnation of interleague, that will see best players under the age of 25 compete against each other.

Morwell senior coach Boyd Bailey is coaching ‘Team Navy’ which will comprise players from Morwell, Traralgon, Maffra, Sale and Bairnsdale.

Warragul counterpart Jed Lamb is coaching ‘Team Red’, taking in players from Warragul, Drouin, Leongatha, Wonthaggi and Moe. Junior football and netball matches are also taking part, playing under the ‘All Stars’ banner.

The initiative is part of a creditable move by the Gippsland League to try and get representative football back on the map following an absence of a few years.

Traditional interleague was scrapped as a cost-cutting move when the pandemic first hit, although in the eyes of some, it had been dying a slow death well before that.

Stories of clubs not nominating their best players for fear of them getting injured were common, as was players themselves either declining an invitation or being half-hearted about it.

Gippsland League would normally play one interleague match per-season wearing the league colours of red, white and blue.

Recent opponents for the senior football team have been: Yarra Valley District (2015 at Drouin, Gippsland won), Bendigo (2016 at Warragul, lost), Woori Yallock (2017 away, lost), Murray (2018 at Moe, won) and Central Murray (2019 at Cohuna, won).

Players wore a commemorative guernsey in 2019 to pay tribute to the league’s 1979 Victorian Country Football League championship winning side.

The then-Latrobe Valley Football League (later Gippsland Latrobe) won the state Division 1 premiership in 1979, 1980, 1990 and 1995.

The halcyon days of the Gippsland League are generally thought to be the early- to mid-90s. The league made three interleague Grand Finals between 1990 and 1995, while by 1996, the region had a club on the VFL stage in Traralgon.

The championships were formally played in a round-robin structure as part of a weekend-long carnival, before it was simply decided to have one league play another in one match per year.

These once-a-year matches formed the basis of a ranking scale, determining the top leagues in the state – a system described as ‘Mickey Mouse’ by some pundits.

While the Gippsland League came in at 13 on the most recent country footy rankings in 2020, in the eyes of most, Gippsland’s only premier league could easily take a place in the top 10.

It is hoped the All Stars concept will help reinvigorate interleague and showcase what the Gippsland League has to offer.

The All Stars will be in action this Saturday, May 20 at Traralgon Recreation Reserve from 10am.