AFL Victoria has dumped generations of bush footy tradition by announcing it has scrapped interleague football.
The decision has sparked widespread disappointment overwhelming disappointment at the lack of representative football to be played in 2020.
However, the AFL is urging leagues to explore organising and staging their own competitions.
Heathcote District Football Netball League chairman Peter Cole said long-term work for the competition would now go without reward.
“We are very disappointed by the announcement AFL Victoria will no longer support interleague football,” he said.
“As a league, we have worked extremely hard to develop a strong interleague culture during the past few years, with many players and administrators volunteering their time and energy to support it.”
AFL Goulburn Murray League operations manager Grant Wilson said from his competition’s perspective “it’s extremely disappointing to lose interleague games”.
But said we’re definitely going to look at playing games next year,” Wilson added.
“The Ovens and Murray and Bendigo Footy Leagues are both at a very high standard so we might look at approaching them to see them if they are interested in our games.
“We've had great success over the past few years and we’re keen for it to continue on.
“The GVL wants to be playing interleague football and netball,” he said.
Murray Football Netball League general manager Dale Norman said while there was still a lot to play out, he did not think the ranking system used for interleague games had always “hit the nail on the head in terms of a league’s quality”.
“When you looked at the results from games there was always big margins.
“And every year it was getting harder to get the better players to commit to playing a game and you can understand that when you see the evenness of our competition.
“In the past, we’ve had to travel to Mildura (2014), Warrnambool (2015) and Moe (2018) and it costs around $30,000 each time when you piece everything together. We’ve also always encouraged our under 18s and netballers to go along because they deserve the opportunity, which has only seen the costs increase.
“Interleague matches should be a showcase event and I think those games have lost that feeling in recent years. Maybe a 12-month break could be hugely beneficial moving forward.
“When it comes to deciding whether we play a game next year we will hand it back to the clubs and see what they want to do that.”
The HDFNL’s Peter Cole said for his clubs “interleague to us was not only the opportunity to showcase our best footballers and netballers, but to also give our younger players opportunities at the highest level”.
Interleague also gave us the opportunity to further strengthen and maintain the close relationships we have between clubs, our interleague selectors and coaches,” he added.
“Obviously, other leagues do not feel the same way about interleague as we do, which is disappointing, and much like the Big V, I fear this decision will result in the end of representative football for the long-term.
“As a league, we have no interest in playing a scratch match against another league.
“The opportunity and prestige of representing our league has been lost in the decision and I will be seeking further detail from AFL Victoria as to what they plan to do with the financial savings abolishing interleague will bring – and how grassroots league’s such as ours will benefit.”
The state's governing body said in a statement to the Riv their decision came after consulting multiple competitions.
“AFL Victoria has taken feedback on representative football from clubs and leagues across the state. Accordingly, AFL Victoria will not facilitate the Community Championships in 2020 while it undergoes various changes,” the statement said.
“AFL Victoria will continue to financially support Leagues who wish to pursue representative programs. The Metropolitan Junior Championships and V/Line Cup representative programs for juniors will remain.”