Leagues clash over city finals deal

WARRNAMBOOL and District Football Netball League is upset major league rival Hampden will play a final in Warrnambool against its preliminary final on Saturday, saying the decision has broken a longstanding gentlemen’s agreement.

WDFNL president Ken McSween was taking a diplomatic approach yesterday after the Hampden league announced on Sunday its qualifying final would be played at Friendly Societies’ Park on Saturday.

But McSween conceded several members of his executive were seething the Hampden league would not stay out of Warrnambool, potentially impacting on its preliminary final crowd across town at Reid Oval.

Clouding the issue is the extent of the agreement, which has been interpreted as applying to both the district league preliminary and grand finals. 

But The Standard spoke with former long-time administrators of both leagues yesterday who said it had applied to grand finals for more than 20 years. 

Preliminary finals were a grey area with the belief in more recent years the Hampden league would, where possible, avoid a clash in Warrnambool.

The 2009 Hampden qualifying final was played at Friendly Societies’ Park on the same day as the WDFNL preliminary final at Reid Oval.

Both McSween and his Hampden league counterpart Hugh Worrall spoke yesterday morning.

“Basically he (Worrall) was unaware of the gentlemen’s agreement for the preliminary final and he thought it only applied to the grand final,” McSween said.

“I said it applied to the grand final and the preliminary final and that it was made by wiser men than you and me who looked past their own leagues for the good of the game.” 

McSween said the Hampden league had not informed his league about the decision before it was made public on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m disappointed they didn’t give us the heads up and I’m disappointed they are doing it,” he said.

“But they are doing it. I personally think it will be more detrimental to them than it will be to us.  The whole idea is to give the viewing public football and netball they wouldn’t normally get to see.”

McSween said his league had gone to extraordinary lengths to start its season in March when grounds were reserved for cricket so that it would leave the Hampden league with no competition for its preliminary and grand finals. 

“I’m hoping this won’t erode the relationship we have. I’m definitely not trying to let that happen,” he said.

“From my end I will try and hold up our end of the bargain even if they don’t. None of us were very happy.”

Hampden league president Hugh Worrall said the conversation between the pair ended on good terms. “I can understand where they are coming from,” he said. “He’s got to do what’s best for his clubs and league and I’ve got to do what’s best for my clubs.”

Worrall said the league had no option to play the senior football game between Koroit and North Warrnambool Eagles anywhere else because Port Fairy’s Gardens Oval had been chopped up during Sunday’s junior grand finals in wet conditions. 

He said Koroit could not be given a home-ground advantage, ruling out Victoria Park. 

That left Hamilton and Portland or a venue in the east like Terang or Camperdown, but both those clubs are playing in Sunday’s elimination final at Cobden.

Worrall said the league always intended to play out of Warrnambool when the district league grand final was played at Reid Oval on Saturday week and Port Fairy was likely to be considered for that, meaning it needed a week’s break to be in good condition.

“There is no animosity between the district league and us,” he said. “We’ll talk further once the finals are over. From my point of view, all we want is for both leagues to have great finals’ series. 

“There is plenty of football for the people to go and see.

“I don’t think it will affect the success. The district league has a very strong following and the Hampden league has a very strong following. We don’t want to make a big thing about it, we don’t want this to detract from the finals series’.”

grbest@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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