Corowa-Rutherglen’s Football Club has scrapped plans for an alliance with surrounding clubs for the interchange of players not required at senior level and will instead continue in its current form, which includes keeping its reserve side for the 2018 season.
The final report of the ‘Corowa Cluster’ was handed down by AFL North East Border earlier this month, which involves Ovens and Murray club Corowa-Rutherglen, and four district league clubs, Rutherglen, Wahgunyah, CDHBU and Billabong Crows.
At this stage Corowa Cluster clubs will retain existing structures.
Corowa-Rutherglen’s Football Club President Graham Hosier said the board was comfortable with the decision to keep the club’s reserves side for the time being.
“Our board reassessed everything, had another look, and we thought we need to give reserves another go next year and see how we go,” he said.
“We are going to try and get the reserves going for the benefit of the club.
“We are in a major league so to drop players back to our reserves we have more control of them.
“After talking to coaches, players and people around the club since having our committee meeting, we thought reserves would be a better fit for our club.”
The Roos board believe some of the positives of having reserves include making recruiting groups of mates easier, it keeps other Ovens and Murray clubs happy, it keeps loyal players at the club and it is easier from a coaching perspective.
With fielding a reserve side, the board acknowledges the financial cost and concerns if the club has enough numbers.
However, the board listed more negatives associated with not having a reserves side including potential resistance from current players, potential recruits, current board members as well as supporters and members.
The board also believes it could create a real divide in the club and disharmony amongst other Ovens and Murray clubs.
The AFL North-East Border Commission states in the report that the present number of teams in the area is unsustainable and has identified there is a need for change.
Corowa-Rutherglen now need to work on recruiting players to the club.
The Ovens and Murray league board of directors was met with an uprising from other clubs about the Roos’ earlier plans not to field reserves.
AFL North East Border General Manager John O’Donohue said the report was clear that having an Ovens and Murray presence in the (Corowa-Rutherglen) area was a preference for everybody.
“That comes from every single club because you want kids with any ability or any aspirations to have somewhere to play locally because it they don’t then they will leave the area and go to school in other areas and play in other areas and that’s not a good thing for Corowa footy,” he said.
“We need to work with Corowa to present them as the strongest club they possibly can be.
“There’s some work to be done to support Graham and his committee to make sure that the good news stories are coming out of Corowa and that Corowa-Rutherglen Football Club and the Ovens and Murray becomes a club of choice for people over that way.
“We will continue to monitor all clubs over that way for the next couple of months and into 2018.
“If it gets to the point that the game is suffering further then we will implement some of those changes, sort of reserve the right to see how things unfold and then act in a more definitive manner if needed.”
Mr O’Donohue said the clear message to get across was that there is a need for change.
“We can’t expect that it’s just a cycle and it will turn around again, because it doesn’t matter if it’s Corowa, CDHBU or Wahgunyah, wherever it might be, there’s just too many clubs in that area for the local community to sustain them all,” he said.
“We are not saying to just go do what you want, we are saying that we need to rationalise a number of teams and how and what that looks like is a really difficult part of it but for the benefit of the game, as opposed to an individual club, we need to make some changes.”
Mr O’Donohue said the league planned to meet with the clubs again soon now they have had a chance to ‘digest everything’.
“If we were to enforce something and it doesn’t have the local buy-in then it will fail,” he said.
“It will be a matter of sitting down with them, getting their thoughts and working through the next phase of it.
“So, it’s not a matter of us just putting a report out and saying you are on your own, the hard work probably starts now to try and implement some of those reforms.”
One of the outcomes of the report will be that no additional teams be permitted or re-established at any club in the Corowa Cluster in 2018.
This means that no Cluster Club shall field any team in 2018 which was not fielded in 2017.
Participation data shows the Cluster could not adequately support the existing number of senior or junior teams in 2017, therefore, any new teams would further compound the issues identified and would detrimentally impact on the Cluster and the broader region.