Structural changes on horizon for regional Aussie Rules competitions

THE standard and direction of the junior and senior Central West AFL competitions are set to come under review when the CWAFL holds its half-yearly meeting on Sunday.

While the meeting is scheduled for this time every year and goes ahead regardless of the state of the competition, there will be some major issues regarding the future of the league on the table this weekend.

The recent trend of blowout scorelines and in one case, a forfeit, has provided cause for concern in some quarters and CWAFL general manager Tony Lewis admitted things could get heated at Sunday’s meeting.

Some speculation has been made about the possibility of a one-grade premiership, while the idea of several junior conference areas will be discussed.

“There are some issues that are going to be up for discussion, all the clubs will be there and they’ll all be throwing their weight around to put their thoughts forward,” he said.

“Would I say I’m concerned by the scores this season and for the future of the competition? To be honest, yes and no.

“It is a cyclical thing and while there have been some major blowouts this season, if you go back not too far Orange copped a 300-point hiding at one point.

“In the last seven years each of Cowra, Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo have won a competition, the one constant has been the Bushrangers always on or near the top. 

“Each of the other clubs have had flat spots in first grade.

A fortnight ago the reserve grade match between the Bushrangers and Cowra was called off at half-time with the Blues having not kicked a point.

They then forfeited the first grade fixture.

The Blues have also spoken to the CWAFL about granting some of their players exemptions in order to continue playing reserve grade as the finals approach.

“These are players that are genuine reserve graders but because of number issues, they have had to play first grade regularly and according to the by-laws, if you play seven first grade games you can’t play finals in the reserves,” Lewis explained.

As it stands at the moment, Bathurst and Orange are evenly matched, but when either side plays one of Dubbo, Cowra or Young, a huge margin is virtually inevitable.

So far in 2014 Bathurst or Orange have met with one of the other three sides 13 times, and in that time only twice has the margin of victory been below 100 points.

Young got to within 26 of Orange in one match while Bathurst defeated Cowra by 69.

The average margin of victory has been 141 points across those 13 games.

“From the perspective of the clubs, Young don’t mind what is happening at the moment. I pushed them to enter into first grade, they took the challenge on and did it. They’re getting some big defeats but are competing with Dubbo and Cowra,” Lewis said.

“But they can’t possibly field two senior teams at the moment.

“So the idea could come up that we go into one grade, and if clubs want to enter two teams, they could. Whether you’d play each other once and then divide into two grades, I don’t know. It’s something that has been mooted by a few people.

“I don’t know how the clubs would respond.”

In the under 18s title race, a similar scenario is playing out to what is happening in first grade with Bathurst and Orange streets ahead.

While the suggestion of major changes to senior football are completely speculative at this stage, the structure of the junior competitions is set for a major overhaul.

The introduction of the Bathurst Giants has strengthened the juniors in this area and Lewis explained that three separate competitions could be fostered for young players.

“Dubbo didn’t want to play junior football on a Sunday, so they left the competition, whereas the other clubs jumped onboard and in Bathurst especially the numbers picked up as kids adopted it as a second sport,” he explained.

“What we would like to do, is to have three different conferences under the CWAFL banner. 

“We would start with a new under 12s competition based around Dubbo, involving Forbes, Parkes, Wellington et cetera. 

“We would also look at another one involving Young, Cootamundra, Cowra and Grenfell, and keep the Giants, Bushrangers, Orange, and maybe sides from Mudgee and Lithgow here. 

“That would be a big step in the right direction.”

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