North Warrnambool Eagles' challenge of junior finals eligibility exemption denial quashed by tribunal

NORTH Warrnambool Eagles will be under-manned for their under 16s finals campaign after an independent tribunal upheld the Hampden league’s decision to not grant them an exemption to a finals eligibility rule.

Chairman Terry O’Keefe said the tribunal backed the Hampden league’s decision not to grant the exemption to a bylaw which rules junior players ineligible for finals after playing eight or more games in a higher grade “with some reservations”.

With no rule in the league’s bylaws relating to the exemption, it has previously been granted at the HFNL’s discretion – “with due diligence”, Hampden president Peter Watson told the tribunal.

“We are a little bit hamstrung in that we don’t have a set of guidelines … we’ve had to back the judgement of the league,” O’Keefe said.

Eagles junior club president Nick Sinclair said the club would now be short players in Saturday’s under 18.5 game and Sunday’s under 16 semi-final. One under 16 Eagle was already ineligible – having played 12 under 18.5 games – while another five are on the precipice of becoming ineligible. 

The Eagles had applied to the league in round six, but did not hear of the outcome until round 11, which they claim hampered their ability to manage players.

Watson said the league had conducted an investigation over three weeks and found that the Eagles had been fielding 17-19 under 18.5-registered players, and encouraged them to rotate more under 16 players to through the side to share the load.