HAMPDEN league board member Gary Attrill has slammed AFL Victoria for scrapping interleague, accusing it of neglecting grassroots football.
AFL Victoria on Thursday announced its interleague - formally known as community championships - had been abolished following a state-wide review.
The peak body listed travel, increasing cost pressure, fixturing and administrative demands as some of the most pressing concerns facing clubs and leagues.
But Attrill said the decision proved the AFL had no regard for country leagues.
"The AFL is very dismissive of grassroots football and prefers to promote the game at places like the Gold Coast and Shanghai," he said.
We're shocked and totally disappointed in this decision.Gary Attrill
"Our league has pound for pound produced more A grade AFL players than others would care to think about.
"We're shocked and totally disappointed in this decision."
Attrill said the league had worked hard to build the professionalism of its program - including the signature of marquee coach Jonathan Brown.
Brown - a 256-game AFL great who began playing football South Warrnambool - led the Hampden league's last three interleague campaigns.
Attrill said while interleague was expensive - costs hovered around $30,000 each year - it was worthwhile.
"It took significant time and work to get our league into a position to challenge for the number one position in the state and it now appears that a few high-profile leagues that have recently been defeated have decided it's all too hard," Attrill said.
"The AFL introduced metropolitan leagues into the community championships recently and this hasn't helped the situation.
"Interleague is an expensive campaign but it is also the fabric of our league and all players have had a strong desire to participate.
"Especially over the last three years, when the board has increased professionalism and attracted great personnel."
In its statement on Thursday, AFL Victoria said financial support would be offered to leagues willing to organise their own interleague matches.
Attrill said the Hampden league was open to playing a neighbouring rival next year.
"Playing a top league would be a great challenge and something the league would embrace, but only if all parties were agreeable," he said.
"Our clubs, players and coaches would need to be 100 per cent behind the game. A curtain raiser to a Geelong Cats game could be appealing.
"We would need commitment from players and coaches before discussing any further."
Attrill also condemned the loss of the Hamilton junior interleague carnival.
It's very disappointing," he said.
Think of the current and past AFL superstars that participated in these carnivals.
"Over the past two decades you have (Luke) Hodge, (Jonathan) Brown, (Jordan) Lewis and more recently (Zach) Merrett, (Ben) Cunnington, (Gary) Rohan, (Hugh) McCluggage.
"That's not to mention two AFL coaches in Leon Cameron and Ken Hinkley."
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