WDFNL ponders return to interleague, with preferred match against CDFL

WARRNAMBOOL and District Football Netball League is considering ending a seven-year interleague absence next season.

The league, which has had a spasmodic involvement in senior representative footy in its 66-year history, is “positive” about a return but its final decision hinges on its preferred opponent.

President Justin Balmer said it hoped an interleague fixture with the neighbouring Colac and District league would be the perfect platform for a return to interleague.

He said the CDFL’s involvement hinged on a vote at its annual general meeting next week.

Balmer said the WDFNL and CDFL were exploring being part of the existing country championships program, the only gauge of league rankings.

The WDFNL’s most recent interleague match was 2006 when it played Kowree-Naracoorte-Tatiara Football League at Naracoorte as a stand-alone match, which was not part of the country championships. 

The WDFNL and CDFL have played each other four times, with their most recent clash in 1990.

“We’ve had an expression of interest from some of our players and we will look into it,” Balmer said.

“We are positive about it but we obviously want the commitment from our players. 

“You don’t want to go and play interleague and the 10 best players say ‘we are going to sit out’. 

“The players are the ones who drive interleague footy. Unless you get their commitment it doesn’t work.”

Panmure playing coach Simon O’Keefe, a highly-decorated Hampden interleague player and Victorian Country vice-captain, yesterday told The Standard he had raised the idea with Balmer.

He said many players in the WDFNL’s team of the year had discussed their desire to be part of interleague after their selection was announced at the league’s best and fairest dinner in September.

“I think it is a great idea, especially with so many young guys in the league,” O’Keefe said.

“Many of them may not want to go and try Hampden league, but interleague with the WDFNL would give them an opportunity to play a higher level of footy.”

He said the league would benefit from increased exposure, which could lead to more recruits.

O’Keefe agreed the push to play interleague footy had to come from the players.

“I think it would be an excellent idea,” O’Keefe said. 

“You have to get your coaches first and what you want to try and do is get other coaches (of clubs) involved and get the best players available. 

“You would have to get confirmation from the coaches saying they would let their contracted players play. 

“You can’t hold them back, you don’t own them.

“I know at Panmure I would encourage my players to have a go.”

Balmer said the WDFNL’s involvement rested heavily on which team it played in the first year.

“We are not interested in going to Mildura or Gippsland in the first year, we want to look at a more local game,” he said. 

“If we had to go somewhere like Mildura or Gippsland it would just kill it in the first year.”

The league exited interleague footy after the 2006 match at Naracoorte, which cost it $11,000.

Balmer told The Standard that the WDFNL had framed a budget for a local match and including the start-up costs of buying jumpers, believed it would be “cost-neutral”. 

If the league returned to the country championships, it would be eligible for funding from AFL Victoria Country, which now runs the series — a subsidy not available eight years ago.

AFL Victoria Country operations manager Brett Connell said there was room for the WDFNL and CDFL in the country championships.

“Warrnambool are keen and we would like to get a south-west competitor for them,” he said.

He said Colac’s decision next Wednesday was important.

With the Western Border league exiting the championships and the Riddell District league entering, two more sides was perfect for the championships.

“But at this stage nothing has been confirmed,” Connell said yesterday.

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