By Nick Creely
The door has officially been slammed shut for the Officer Senior Football Club’s bid to have their women’s side transferred across to the combined Eastern/AFL Outer East competition, with the AFL advising the club that they are unable to lodge an official appeal.
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 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 late January of this year, but this time only for the women’s side. This was knocked back.
But, the AFL advised the club last Thursday 28 March that any appeal in relation to the matter would have been required within seven days of the formal decision to deny the request, meaning that the club left it too long to formally lodge an appeal with the AFL.
It now means that the Kangaroos will be forced to play in the South Eastern Women’s competition, after considering, at one stage, pulling out of the competition due to a lack of numbers.
“The club is disappointed that it has no further avenues of appeal and we feel let down by the system, our women’s team made the decision that they wanted to play in a league aligned with our men’s teams and all we have tried to do is prosecute their wishes,” Kangaroos president Nick McLennan said.
“The club is aiming to field a team this year regardless of which competition we are playing in, however this decision and the negativity that has been generated around it has had a serious impact on our ability to attract, recruit and retain players. This being said, we are just hoping to make the best of a bad situation.
“The AFL South East should really consider the impact that these kinds of decisions have on local clubs and grass roots football. I am aware that there are several former SEFNL clubs that are now considering shifting some of their junior teams from AFL South East so if their aim here is to grow their respective competitions they are failing horribly.
“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.”
McLennan said the club has exhausted all of its options in trying to reverse the decision, and contacted AFL South East last Friday to make “one final appeal” to be released.
“The club recently made a final request to John Anderson (regional general manager of AFL South East) to reconsider his position, unfortunately his response was less than desirable. We were informed that he could not see the commission overturning the decision and that they don’t plan to meet until after round one,” he said.
“All we’re asking for is to be treated fairly. AFL South East has decided to release another women’s team from their competition after rejecting ours, I can’t help but feel there is some kind of bias or personal vendetta involved here. We just want what is best for football.”
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 Kangaroos have confirmed they will apply to shift leagues for next season, and AFL Outer East region general manager Aaron Bailey said they will work with any clubs that wish to be part of the competition for 2020.
“We will work with Officer, Pakenham or any clubs that wish to have their women’s teams in the Eastern Region Women’s competition moving forward, but around the time that applications open” he said.
“Our position is, and remains, that we want clubs to play where they feel is the best fit for their club and in Officer’s case, they’ve made it clear that it’s in the Outer East model, and we’ll work with them to achieve that.”
The Pakenham Gazette has received a copy of a letter addressed to John Anderson which is expected to be made public later this afternoon.