By Russell Bennett
GIPPSLAND footy’s shiny new plaything has officially arrived.
The West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) was officially launched on Saturday, complete with a naming rights sponsor, new logo, and inaugural fixture.
Mind-bogglingly, the grand final – to be held on 16 September – will clash with the South East Football Netball League (SEFNL) decider, just as the EDFL grand final has done in the past three years. It’s no doubt a head-scratching move for fans across the region.
Reigning three-time Ellinbank and District Football League (EDFL) premier Cora Lynn will open the season against last year’s Alberton league runner-up Inverloch-Kongwak in the first ever game of the Alex Scott and Staff West Gippsland Football Netball Competition.
The historic battle between the recent heavyweights of their former competitions will be played under lights at Cora Lynn – in senior footy and netball – on Saturday, 25 March as a matchup brought forward from Round 11 as a standalone fixture.
Round one then officially follows on Saturday, 1 April.
But plenty of the early buzz around the new league already centres on Cora Lynn’s grudge match with rivals Kooweerup as the only Sunday game in Round 4 – to be held across April 29 and 30.
The clash marks the first time Demons recruits Nathan Muratore and Anthony Giuliano will come up against their former multiple premiership-winning team mates.
The Anzac Round will be held on 22 April, with no games fixtured for Anzac Day itself.
Kooweerup’s clash at Denhams Road with Nar Nar Goon will be a standalone night game on the Saturday, following equally mouth-watering contests featuring Garfield and Cora Lynn, Kilcunda Bass and Phillip Island, and Inverloch and Bunyip.
The rematch of the final two EDFL grand finals in its former 15-club format – Cora Lynn versus Bunyip – is in Round 9, the Queen’s Birthday Round on 10 June.
Along with the new fixture, the competition’s brand new logo was also unveiled on the weekend with Alex Scott and Staff announced as naming rights sponsor for the next three years.
AFL Gippsland has appointed former Latrobe City events and international relations coordinator Jason Membrey as the senior leagues coordinator and he will oversee the administration of the brand new league, which harks back in a number of different ways to the former West Gippsland leagues.
A new committee of management has also been formed to help AFL Gippsland and Netball Victoria administer the competition.
Warragul Greyhounds club manager and former Nar Nar Goon Football Club president Adrian Scott has been named to the inaugural committee alongside Latrobe Health Services chief risk officer Kylie Debono, Korumburra osteopath Mat Holmes, retired police officer Col Rielly, and Gippsland business manager Tony Moxey. Scott’s is the only name of the five that will be familiar to many Bunyip, Cora Lynn, Garfield, Kooweerup, and Nar Nar Goon fans.
The WGFNC will make its interleague debut next season as part of the WorkSafe Community Championships. Starting at a ranking of 25th, it will face the Riddell and District Football Netball League.
The WGFNC’s clubs also intend to enter representative teams in the Netball Victoria Association Championships in 2017.
AFL Gippsland region general manager Travis Switzer said the competition was coming together in leaps and bounds.
“There is obviously a lot to work through in setting up a new competition but the enthusiasm with which the clubs have embraced the change has been very encouraging,” he said.
“We had plenty of feedback on the image of the new league and it was felt that adopting red and gold as the colours was a nice way to acknowledge the past and embrace the bright future of a modern football and netball competition.”