WDFNL coaches give expanded finals series lukewarm reception

A PROPOSAL to expand the Warrnambool and District league finals series to six teams has only minimal support among senior football coaches.

Just four of the 12 coaches polled by The Standard backed the league adding a sixth team to the finals mix, and even then their support was not unconditional.

WDFNL executive members Andrew Thomson, Ken Knowles and Carey Hackett this month devised a top-six system they hope will become reality next season.

As part of the model, all six teams will get a week off in finals. But the centrepiece is two preliminary finals designed to capture the imagination of players and fans.

The negatives are there is only one match in week one of the series — between the top two sides. The side that finishes third will also be without a double chance.

East Warrnambool coach Paul Butters said he wanted the existing top-five system to remain in place.

“I don’t think it’s a really good idea. The way it’s set up at the moment with the first side (having a week off), they should have an advantage,” he said.

“They finished on top for a reason. The way it is, it helps the top three sides. If you go to six you’re not really helping the top three sides.” Dennington coach Ben Parkinson said he did not believe the league had any reason to change what wasn’t broken.

“If you’re good enough to finish in the top five, you get a chance,” he said.

“I think (a top six) is a massive detriment to the side that finishes third on the ladder and is potentially out in the first final they play.

“To do all that work for 18 rounds and finish third and get knocked out in the first final, I think that’d be pretty disappointing.”

Simon O’Keefe also backed the status quo to remain. The Panmure premiership coach said sides that finished on top “should get the advantage”.

“I don’t like it. If third to sixth are getting a week off as well, that doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Josh Parkinson (Allansford), Karl Dwyer (Merrivale), Jay Everall (Russells Creek), Brendan Hickey (Timboon Demons) and Matt Lenehan (Deakin University) were the others who urged against change.

But a new finals system had its supporters within the league, including Old Collegians coach Daryl Beechey.

“I can see it working. I was talking to a bloke from South Rovers and they said in the last few years they’ve finished sixth a lot,” he said.

“You’ve at least got to give them a sniff of finals. The ultimate goal of footy clubs is to get their team playing finals and see how they go from there.”

Nirranda coach Aidan Cole also believed the benefit of giving more sides the chance to play finals outweighed the negatives.

“There are a lot of sides that haven’t played finals footy for quite a while, including ourselves,” he said.

“If they were to bring something in like this, it’s going to give them sides a taste of what finals footy will be like.”

Kolora-Noorat triple premiership coach Ben Kenna was also a cautious backer. Kenna said he wanted to “hear a bit more before I give it total favour”.

Brendan Whelan leant his support to expanding the finals series, but said any change would have to come with a more evenly balanced draw.

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