By Nick Creely
The powerful Berwick Football Club will be looking to make the Eastern Football League its home from 2020, with the Wickers wanting out after just one season in the AFL Outer East competition.
The Wickers – who are searching for a rare three-peat in this September’s finals series after finishing as the minor premier in the Premier Division – officially applied to join the Eastern league as of next season.
With premierships in 2017 and 2018 in the final years of the now-defunct South East Football Netball League (SEFNL), the Wickers are in the midst of a golden era of football and are revered in the south-east but believe now is the right time to make the plunge to one of Melbourne’s benchmark football competitions.
In a move that’s been mooted for the majority of 2019, with discussion even going back to 2018, the Eastern Football League will now call a special general meeting on 25 September to consider the Wickers’ application, with the club tipped to obtain more than the 51 per cent required to join the competition by the member clubs.
Berwick president Glenn Gambetta told the Gazette that it’s the right time for his club to join the powerful football competition. Gambetta also added that the decision to apply has been strongly supported by all involved within the football club.
“We’ve done this for two reasons – one, we believe its in the best interests of our football club, and we believe its in the best interests of football in the area to have that higher ranked club for the kids in the area,” he said.
“And that’s where the decision has come from; our life members support it, members in general, as well as our players and coaching group support it.
“In the end it was unanimous, and it was something we considered last year, but in the interest of the SEFNL and keeping the clubs and netball together, we made the decision to stick together and give Outer East a go.”
The Wickers have also begun plans to field a women’s side in 2020, in another indicator of the club’s rapid growth.
Gambetta said that the club’s preference would be to join Division 1 of the EFL next season, but won’t focus too heavily on that.
“We don’t have any control over that, it’s up to the league and the member clubs,” he said.
It is understood at this stage that the netball club have indicated their desire to stay within the Outer East model, regardless of where the football club’s future lies.
The Gazette also understands that AFL Outer East could be set to appeal if Berwick are granted entry into the Eastern Football League, based on the competition being so young and that they’re a required club moving forward.
Gambetta said that while there is still plenty left to play out in terms of getting his club into their desired competition, the club will only focus on things within their control, such as finishing the 2019 season with another premiership.
“I’ve been in communication with them (Outer East) through the entire process, it’s all been very amicable and respectful, so I haven’t tried to second guess,” he said.
“But at the moment, I’ll worry about getting to the end of September, and then I’ll focus on 2020 – at this stage we’ll park it, we’ve made the application, and that’s far as it goes.
“The club’s focus is now strictly on the 2019 finals series.”
With a week off after finishing as minor premiers, Berwick will take on either Narre Warren or Beaconsfield in a semi-final on 14 September for a spot in the grand final, which will be held at Pakenham’s Toomuc Reserve.
AFL Outer East declined to comment for this story.