By Nick Creely
A bitterly disappointed Officer Senior Football Club is preparing an appeal to AFL Victoria after a request for their women’s side to be transferred across to the combined Eastern/AFL Outer East competition was knocked back.
The Kangaroos’ committee moved to lodge an appeal at a meeting last Tuesday night, 19 March.
The club officially transferred to the AFL Outer East commission in early August of 2018 after originally passing the motion to shift leagues on 28 May 2018 , under the assumption that this would mean that both the men and women’s football teams, as well as netball teams, would be transferring leagues in 2019.
But as it stands, the Officer men’s side will be playing in Division One of the AFL Outer East, while the women will line up in the South Eastern Women’s competition, which is governed by AFL South East. It meant that the club had to then apply again for a shift in leagues in January of this year, but this time only for the women’s side. This has been knocked back.
The AFL South East commission met on Monday night, and have stuck with its original position of declining the transfer across to the Eastern/Outer East competition.
Officer president Nick McLennan said that the club is one structure, with one senior football committee, and that in their view, both men and women need to be playing in the same league.
“The Officer women’s team falls under the jurisdiction of the Officer Senior Football Club committee and are managed by the football department as are our senior men’s teams. We consider ourselves to be one club, not a men’s club and a women’s club,” he said.
“Our (original) application to change leagues was made on behalf of the entire club, not a segment of the club or for any particular team.
“If we had sort to only transfer a part of the club we would have sought to clarify that position.”
McLennan said that the club was extremely “frustrated” at the decision, and will be seeking more answers in the coming days and weeks.
“Members of our women’s team have previously stated they feel less important than our men’s team, whilst this is not the case, how can we be expected to defend this position when people in positions of authority make decisions like this,” he said.
“Ultimately this decision hurts women’s football, the uncertainty this decision has generated has already seen the side lose its coach who resigned and sighted this decision as a key reason. This decision is also affecting our ability to recruit and retain players. The side made it clear which league they wanted to be in and the commission has gone against their wishes.
“I just hope it’s not too late to turn things around and hopefully common sense will prevail.
“I simply cannot understand why AFL South East would be seeking to hold up the transfer of our women’s team when we as a club have been very clear about our desire to shift away from their organisation.”
McLennan added that the club’s relationship with AFL South East was simply not tenable, and confirmed that the club has had discussions with AFL Outer East in early March, saying that there was “a spot open for them”.
“Based on recent history and the issues we’ve had with SEFNL I’m not convinced John (Anderson) and members of AFL South East actually understand how hard it is to run a local football club,” he said.
“We’re all volunteers and it’s a bit rich to be told what’s best for our club by somebody who hasn’t been to one of our games for years.
“I can confirm that I’ve had discussions with AFL Outer East as recently as three weeks ago, and while this is a messy situation, I can not thank them enough for their support during this time.”
But, AFL South East region general manager John Anderson explained the process to the Gazette, saying that the club didn’t apply for their women’s side to be moved until well after the transfer application deadline, and that there was no indication that the club intended for its women’s side to be moved across in the initial application.
“An application for the Officer women’s team to move to AFL Outer East was not received until 29 January 2019, which is well past the transfer application deadline,” he said.
“The commission met in late January and declined the transfer request from South Eastern Women’s Football (SEWF).
“The commission had previously considered the transfer applications of the eight SEFNL football and netball clubs and approved their moves to Outer East and West Gippsland.
“At that time there had been no application from any of the SEFNL Clubs to move their women’s teams to the combined Eastern/Outer East competition, therefore the applications were not considered by the commission within the timeline under the AFL Vic Rules.
“The SEFNL Clubs with women’s teams in SEWF are Beaconsfield, Cranbourne, Officer and Pakenham. Only Pakenham and Officer requested a move to the combined Eastern/Outer East Women’s competition but both were declined by the Commission.”
The Gazette contacted AFL Outer East, who declined to comment on the issue.
The Gazette also understands that even if the Kangaroos’ appeal is rejected by AFL Victoria, they will be applying to transfer leagues next season regardless.