By David Nagel
AFL South East is on the verge of ratifying a decision it made in early May to host this year’s South East Football Netball League grand final under lights at Casey Fields on Saturday 16 September.
AFLSE Region General Manager John Anderson sat with the SEFNL board on Tuesday night, where it was decided to proceed with the controversial decision despite it being universally rejected by its nine member clubs – both football and netball.
The AFL South East commission will meet on Monday night where it is expected to rubber stamp the hosting of the league’s first ever night grand final.
Clubs have corresponded via email today – Friday 14 July – confirming the AFLSE decision to make the night grand final a reality.
AFLSE revisited its original decision after the clubs penned a letter to SEFNL chairman Ryan Ford, expressing their disappointment at the consultation process that led to the decision.
Key issues, amongst others, included the split of football and netball for the big day –with football and netball being 400-metres apart at Casey Fields – and the uncertainty surrounding who would benefit financially from the biggest event on the calendar.
Initial plans for the night grand final would see all 10 netball games –from under 13s through to A Grade- played during the day, concurrent with the under 19s and reserves football, before the senior grand final would take centre stage under lights.
The original decision from AFLSE and SEFNL was based on showcasing the league at the best venue available and separating the timeslot from neighbouring grand final fixtures – allowing bigger crowds to attend.
AFLSE govern three leagues – Nepean, Peninsula and SEFNL –with the Nepean grand final scheduled for the same day along with the neighbouring West Gippsland and Ellinbank leagues.
But the clubs weren’t concerned with the time clash, their recommendation was to play a day grand final at Beaconsfield, Berwick or Pakenham, clubs with netball courts close by to the football, keeping the community spirit between the two sports intact.
Cranbourne president Shane Baker said the clubs were mostly disappointed that their collective voice was not being heard.
“We’re very disappointed, we were unified in our approach and think we went about getting our point across in a respectful and professional manner,” Baker said.
“There just seems to be no rhyme or reason for this to go ahead, we thought we were being heard but obviously our collective voice fell on deaf ears.”
Berwick netball club president Mel Broadley said the decision just didn’t make sense and that the entire SEFNL netball community would be extremely disappointed with the outcome.
“We, the netball clubs, have not been listened to from the start and to say that we are disappointed as a collective would be an extreme understatement,” Broadley said.
“The camaraderie between the football and netball clubs is something that every club in SEFNL has worked so hard to achieve over the years, so for this to happen, to have the grand finals split – I’m lost for words. The community spirit has been built over many years and, in regards to that, this sets us back a bit.”
Broadley said the clubs would now need to get together and discuss their options going forward.
“We were hoping that nothing extreme would have to happen to get the decision overturned – we were hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” she said.
“We will all get together now and discuss the way forward from here.”