The Orange Tigers have pushed back at the AFL Central West after the league pushed to cut playing numbers down to 16-a-side for season 2020 as part of the move to two tiers.
The league had floated the prospect in late 2019 as a workaround for if clubs are struggling for numbers, but over the weekend the league sent a note to clubs clarifying the 2020 competition structure.
It said two tiers would be formed, with both the first and second tiers to have a maximum of 16 players on the field at a time, down from the regulation 18-a-side, with bench size slashed in half from six to three in first grade, but up to eight in second grade.
Tigers president Andrew Nelson said while the club would enter two teams and was 100 per cent behind the move to two tiers, "it needs to be sustainable", and the cut in player numbers would be detrimental to the competition and growing the game in the Central West.
"Backwards might not be the right word but I don't think it is the right direction when we are trying to grow the game while improving the standard of football," he said.
"Our competition bylaws already allow for numbers to be reduced to 16 on the field if the opposition is a bit short which think is sufficient."
Nelson said lower numbers would make it harder to recruit players.
"I don't want to as a president try and recruit players to our club then turn around and say 'sorry mate we can't give you a game this week because we can only play 16'," he said.
"If the AFL Central West is serious about wanting to grow the game there needs to be opportunity, I don't believe the 16 a side generic fit is the best way to go."
He said clubs with only one side like Parkes or Cowra would be at a loss under the new rule, while Dubbo - who traditionally have far more available for home games than away - would also be forced to leave players out.
Matches will also be shortened from 25 to 22-minute quarters in the top flight and 18 minutes in the second tier, with no time-on.
Nelson put forward an official suggestion to have 18 on the field and three on the bench to the league over the weekend, and while he said having lower numbers onfield might be a good move for the second grade, players would still struggle on larger grounds such as Orange or Parkes.
"With all the time and effort the league had made to try and get the competition structure I'd really hope they take the feedback of the key stakeholders and the clubs which this affects onboard," he said.
"I guess we will see if they are open to feedback if they do respond."
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