AFL Victoria has pulled the plug on its Community Championships — but that does not mean senior interleague football is a thing of the past.
While the governing body cited concerns with travel, increasing costs and player availability for not running the championships next season, it will continue to financially support any league that wants to continue with senior representative football.
That opens the door for the Goulburn Valley League to potentially battle traditional rival Ovens and Murray League, which would be just the second time in nine years the Ash-Wilson Trophy has been contested.
GVL operations manager Grant Wilson told The Shepparton News his league would pursue some sort of interleague football and netball next season regardless of AFL Victoria's decision.
Outlining the decision to stop the Community Championships, AFL Victoria community football and development manager Stephen O'Donohue said in a statement leagues had many reasons for seeking change.
“Based on the feedback from clubs and leagues across the state, AFL Victoria will not facilitate the WorkSafe AFL Victoria Community Championships in 2020 given many stakeholders raised the current format as a concern, telling us they believe it needs an update and changes,” he said.
“The main areas of feedback around the current championships from clubs and leagues were based on concerns around the validity of the ranking system, inconsistent levels of competition, travel, increasing costs, and the pressure these costs place on leagues, fixturing, administrative demands on leagues, impact on league fixtures and player availability.”
But AFL Goulburn Murray region general manager Jamie Macri said the power was now in the hands of leagues — if they want to play interleague, AFL Victoria will help make it happen.
“AFL Victoria is encouraging leagues to continue playing if it's relevant to their league and they want to participate,” Macri said.
“Say the GVL wanted to play the O and M, AFL Victoria would proudly support that to happen.
“The GVL has done really well in the rankings and loves interleague, so there's opportunities with Bendigo, the O and M, for a local clash. AFL Victoria is just getting rid of the model with the rankings of 1 to 35.”
Macri said allowing the leagues to organise their own fixtures would aid a better outcome for all.
“I love interleague footy, I've been actively involved with it my whole career,” he said.
“But I don't think one model fits all and there's the opportunity for leagues to continue playing if they want to.
“It gives leagues much more flexibility going forward. Who's to say a club doesn't want to play in 2020, but then wants to play every second year, every five years, there's the flexibility to do what suits.”
The GVL ends the Community Championships ranked fourth, the Murray league sits 15th and the Kyabram District league was 28th, while the Picola District league did not take part.
Junior representative programs, such as the V/Line Cup, received strong support and will continue.