SOUTH West District league will revert to an eight-team competition in 2014.
The league, which welcomed Western Border league club Heywood in 2012, has lost Sandford to a merger with Casterton.
Casterton-Sandford will play in the Western Border league next season after Cats’ members voted in favour of an amalgamation on Sunday.
Villagers’ members ticked off a proposed merger in November.
The move eliminates a bye from the South West District fixture.
South West District league president Selwyn Jones said the league would finalise its draw in January.
“We had eight teams for a long time and Heywood came into our league and made a bye,” Jones said.
Jones said the merger was a positive move for Sandford.
“It is good news. It is something both communities worked hard to achieve,” he said.
“It might sound strange saying I am happy to lose a club from our league but I’ve been kept in the loop and know the struggles and would rather see them merge than Sandford fold or go into recess.”
Jones said the Sandford-Casterton merger, which has been in the pipeline for some time, was helped along after Hamilton Kangaroos’ successful Hampden league debut last season.
The Kangaroos were born out of Western Border league clubs Hamilton Imperials and Hamilton Magpies.
“The result of the Hamilton Imperials and Hamilton merger was a template of what can happen with a united community and I believe Casterton and Sandford bounced off that a bit and it was a trigger,” Jones said.
Sandford president Eddie McGrath said the amalgamation decision was made with both clubs’ long-term futures in mind.
“It’s sad to leave the South West. Selwyn Jones and the executive run a good ship,” he said. “We thank them for their support throughout the merger process and thank Lachy Patterson on the AFL Western District commission.”
McGrath said an overwhelming majority of club members voted in favour of the merger.
He said the idea was first floated in 1997 and the 2012 VCFL Southern Border Review brought the proposal to the forefront.
“It was a very courageous decision by both clubs but a sound decision,” he said.
The club jumper — blue and white hoops with a CSFC insignia — name and equalising vote were agreed on before the deciding votes were cast.
“Everyone knew what they were voting for,” he said.
McGrath said Casterton-Sandford would be “competitive and sustainable”.
He said the new combination would train and play home matches at Casterton, with Sandford’s oval to be used for juniors competition.
Sandford will also be used to host fund-raisers and functions.
“Whether you voted for or against the merger, we haven’t lost anyone,” he said.
“It’s been a goal of mine that no one fell behind the wayside because of the vote.”