FOOTBALL – TOM HAYES
A NUMBER of Gippsland footballers have made the move from the region toward Melbourne, and their transition has been aided by the Springvale Districts Football-Netball Club.
Competing in the Southern Football League, the Springvale Districts Football-Netball Club has helped Gippslanders complete their move to Melbourne, not only with a new football club to play at and a sense of belonging in a new environment, but also by offering help on work and housing transition.
Springvale Districts is slowly becoming a home away from home for Gippsland exports, boasting more than a handful of Gippsland-grown players.
The connection with Gippsland began in 2021, when normality began to be restored after the COVID pandemic, with students returning to university, work going back to normal, and of course, sports being reintroduced to the weekends.
Since then, a handful of Gippsland footballers have moved to Melbourne, joining Springvale Football-Netball Club in the process, who helped them with the tough transition.
“It virtually all started from one point of contact … and it just snowballed from there,” Springvale Districts Football-Netball Club President, Greg Scott said.
The idea sparked after a player from Gippsland joined Springvale FNC, then asked if his mates, who also lived in the city, could train with the club.
“We are happy to entertain anyone to train with us who plays elsewhere regionally. We do encourage players to bring their mates down,” Scott said.
“Hopefully what happens from there is they get a feel for the club, see how we play, understand our culture and so forth, and then they decide to hang around the following year.”
Opportunities to play at Springvale FNC are coming from various avenues, and the country feel of the club only makes it all the more attractive to regional players.
Monash University students, many of whom come from regional areas have had the chance to join the club, only expanding the range of players that are available.
“It’s an easy transition for them, and we are hoping to attract some girls who are going to play some netball for us from all over Victoria,” Scott said.
“We don’t have a promise … they just feel engrained.
“I love the fact that they’ve chosen to play with us.”
A number of Gippsland footballers have made the move since football returned post-COVID, and all of them spoke highly of Springvale FNC for helping with the transition and beyond.
Liam Giove moved from Bairnsdale FNC to the Springvale Districts FNC for the 2023 season, describing it as a “very smooth process”.
“The club provided me with a well-paying job to make living easy down in Melbourne, (they) helped with a real estate agent to get a rental as well,” Giove said.
Looking forward to the start of a new venture, Tom Anderson has joined Springvale FNC from Sale City FNC ahead of the 2024 season.
“I have been down in Melbourne since finishing school … I moved by myself in my first year of uni to North Melbourne,” he said.
“I’m originally from Sale, I ran into one of my mates, Ben Brunt, in the Balaclava Anytime Fitness and got chatting to him … he mentioned he was moving from Maffra up this way for work.
“I haven’t played footy for five years but was keen to get involved so he told me to come down and have a crack at pre-season.
“Springvale (FNC) has only gotten to know me; I’m saying that they have welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home from day dot.
“Excited to see what this year can offer.”
Xavier Woodland is just another Gippslander to make the move, this time from Heyfield FNC to Springvale Districts FNC.
“Once I got to the club, I knew that it was perfect for me as it had a country feeling and a sense of community, along with a great coach staff and a side of professionalism,” Woodland said.
“The process was made as easy as possible by the club. They didn’t provide hand-outs, but they gave me contacts for jobs, housing and everything that helped me feel as settled as possible.”
It appeared to be a “no-brainer” for club president Greg Scott, who believes the club had the right connections to facilitate the idea.
An alternative structure was needed for Springvale FNC, as with no junior clubs, they don’t have constant flow of juniors into the seniors.
“Because we don’t have a junior program … we don’t have that opportunity that other clubs do,” Scott said.
“We have opportunities, obviously through businesses that we’re involved with, and we have our major sponsors.
“So any guys or girls that come up with a trade can get work, and any guys or girls that do (university) – it fits their timetable.
“The rentals and housing is easy, because some of our major sponsors are real estate agents, and they love the fact that they can put a couple of boys and girls through their housing knowing that their not going to wreck it.”
The Southern Football-Netball League team is not just stopping there, with more plans being drawn up for stronger connections.
Springvale FNC is trying to pass a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Gippsland clubs, in order to attract players to the club if they decide to move to Melbourne.
Instead, providing a pathway for senior footballers and netballers to play a high level of football or netball at a country-style club in Melbourne in a strong competition, rather than poaching players.
Attaining the MOU has proved to be a difficult process however, as AFL Gippsland have the ability to implement a bylaw for extra pathway programs.
East Gippsland Football-Netball League side Lakes Entrance FNC are open to the idea, according to the Springvale FNC President.