Orange Tigers are concerned the Central West AFL’s proposal for a two-tier competition could “jeopardise the competition” if implemented in 2019 if smaller clubs aren’t able to make the commitment to a full season of football.
Earlier this month the CWAFL floated putting of the Bathurst Bushrangers, Bathurst Giants, Dubbo Demons and the Tigers into a “premier league”, with a Bushrangers development side and Parkes to make up a ‘country cup’, 16-a-side tier with – the CWALF hopes – Cowra, Young and potentially Mudgee.
The Tigers’ committee and players have met for discussions on the proposal and president Ben Cullis said while the club wanted to see a “development-style league”, he would rather see a second tier rolled out in 2020 or 2021.
Cullis said he wanted to ensure the returning clubs would be strong enough to last a full season.
“Moving Parkes and the Bushrangers down to a second tier is relying on Cowra and Young to field sides,” he said.
If [Cowra and Young] pull out then there’s no competition, we lose Parkes, and their players might move or play elsewhere and then its difficult to get them back.Tigers president Ben Cullis
“If they pull out then there’s no competition, we lose Parkes, and their players might move or play elsewhere and then its difficult to get them back.”
He said he wasn’t sure Mudgee, Young and Cowra would be able to field sides and wanted the CWAFL to spend time making sure the proposal was sustainable.
The CWAFL’s Nick Lowther last week confirmed the proposal wasn’t necessarily locked in for the 2019 season and could be pushed back if feedback from the clubs reflected that.
Young is in an especially difficult spot considering its proximity to Canberra and Riverina leagues and several years out of the Central West competition.
Cullis also said a four-team premier league could potentially become stale, with the six-team format still providing enough competition for finals spots, with fourth not decided until the final round of the 2018 season.
However, the club is open to making concessions to help lighten the load on other clubs, with Cullis saying he’d be happy for the Tigers to give up a home game to help Parkes, Dubbo or others cope with the distance.
“We asked ‘what can we do to help struggling clubs?’ and giving them extra home games could help player retention,” Cullis said.
“If each Bathurst team and the Tigers gave up a home game that gives Parkes and Dubbo an extra two home games each.”
Currently, Parkes travel a minimum of an hour to away games, while Dubbo are nearly two hours from Orange and closer to three hours from Bathurst.
While Dubbo isn’t considered a struggling club – they would play in a proposed premier league – they do have to travel the furthest distance of any club and have traditionally struggled with player numbers for away games.
The Tigers are still also aiming for a second team to enter either a single or dual tier competition, but currently don’t have enough numbers to make it work.
“We’ve said from day one if we could get enough players we’d put two teams in, the problem is many members of our playing group are shift workers,” Cullis said.
“We struggled to fill a full team most week, and the reality is we’d need 70 players on the books, which is an extra 25 to 30 players.”
Cullis said some of those players would begin to filter through from juniors, with a dozen or so set to graduate from the under-17s in the coming two seasons, and a development league would be the best place for them to have their first exposure to senior football.
However, he said it was impossible to make any commitments on a second side, and it would happen when the Tigers could form it.
Representatives from the ALF NSW, the CWAFL and from clubs will meet in Orange this weekend to discuss the proposal, with the governing body set to make a decision in the coming month or so.
DO YOU WANT MORE ORANGE SPORT?
Receive our free newsletter delivered to your inbox every morning, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up here …