After 12 months of surveys, workshops, discussions and debates the AFL Goulburn Murray Commission has handed down its final report of the Junior Football Future Directions Project.
The project was launched in June 2017 as a priority project with significant implications to AFL Goulburn Murray’s core responsibilities and is consistent with the Commission’s strategic direction of managing the future of football in the region.
With a focus on examining the structure and format of junior football in the Goulburn Murray region and design and recommending a model for the future the project established four specific project teams made up of club and League volunteers to consider:
- The best practice governance model for the region’s three stand alone junior football leagues
- The competition structures in junior football to ensure appropriate playing opportunities are provided
- The pathway of players coming into junior football and the transition of players into senior ranks
- The playing conditions and rules of junior football and the application of the AFL Junior Match Policy
AFL Goulburn Murray Chairman Peter Foott acknowledged the amount of work which has gone into the project.
“This has been a major undertaking of the Commission over the past 12 months” he said.
“The project commenced with a survey of stakeholders last year which provided some valuable insights and data to set the ball rolling and provide some initial discussions.”
“27 club and league volunteers were then engaged in the Project Team workshops and the outcome of their discussions have really driven this project and the direction it has taken.”
“Following the release of the 27 draft recommendations in November 2017 a feedback window was provided for stakeholders to submit their views and opinions on all or any of the recommendations. In all, 22 written submissions were received for consideration of the Steering Committee.”
“The Steering Committee have also met countless times to discuss and debate issues and to model possible scenarios and there have also been many meetings with potentially impacted stakeholders to gain their feedback and troubleshoot ideas.”
“When considering the submissions received during the feedback window and the feedback from the Steering Committee the Commission formally adopted 21 of the 27 recommendations with immediate effect.”
“Recommendation 9 has been amended to cater for differences within each League running junior competitions and Recommendations 12 and 13 regarding limiting squad numbers were dismissed as a result of feedback and will be replaced by a Player Sharing Policy which a subcommittee will prepare for adoption by all Leagues.”
“The recommendations involving the GVL U16, KDFNL U17s and KDFNL clubs seeking U14s into the future have received further discussion and consultation during the 2018 season to further flesh out any concerns and to better understand implementation issues and the flow on effects.”
“As a result of those discussions the introduction of the GVL U16s competition will be postponed until 2020 with further investigation conducted over the next nine months to resolve a number of considerations to the satisfaction of the Commission.”
“These considerations include the long term sustainability of the Seymour DJFNL and Shepparton DJFL U16 competitions, increasing the dialogue and collaboration between Junior League Executives and the GVL Board and meeting with the AFL North East Border Commission regarding the future direction for juniors in Benalla and Mansfield.”
“Additionally, this project has brought to the surface a number of issues regarding the relationship that currently exists between the senior and junior bodies within the same club. There are a number of clubs who, whilst they wear the same jumper colours and carry the same name, do not share a coordinated and consistent relationship.”
“This is a concern to the Commission and a program is to be developed to facilitate a ‘whole of club’ philosophy to encourage and foster relationships to better link player pathways between juniors and seniors.”
“Recommendations 15 and 16 relate to changes within the KDFNL age group structures specifically to change their thirds age group from U18 to U17 and for setting an aspirational target of U14s for KDFNL clubs to work towards over the next few years.”
“With the PDFNL only committing to 2019 affiliation last week and the KDFNL (and also MFL) announcing they would like to set up another division within their League to accommodate clubs who could field U17s and U14s it is the view of the Commission that, whilst U17s remains the preferred thirds age group at the district level, introduction in 2019 would be premature whilst there are other structural issues which need to be resolved in the coming months.”
“Therefore should the KDFNL establish a separate division in 2019 then the thirds in the new division shall be U17 and U14 whilst the other division shall remain at U18. In 2020, both divisions shall be U17s as thirds.”
“Should the KDFNL not establish a separate division in 2019 then the current thirds shall remain as U18 for 2019 and revert to U17 in 2020.”
“The aspirational target of U14 for KDFNL clubs has also been adopted with Football Development Managers to work with each club to establish junior pathway links as the first priority. The SGR Giants and Tabilk JFCs are successful examples of this model which are already in place.”
“As well as the recommendations a key outcome from this project has been the discussions it has started, the issues that have been debated and the ideas it has generated as the Commission has looked into the future as to what junior structure is the most appropriate to serve the sustainability of our clubs and the best interests of the game. Importantly, these conversations need to continue to evolve into the future.”