Redlegs make reserves pitch

Redlegs make reserves pitch

A huge step in regards to Bairnsdale Football Netball Club (BFNC) fielding a reserves side for the 2019 Gippsland League season was taken on Wednesday night, August 8, as the club received feedback from the East Gippsland football community.

The club has not fielded a re- serves side since entering the league in 2011 and believes for itself and East Gippsland football to develop it would be the best course of action.

Since joining the league, Bairnsdale has operated under an alignment system which has seen those senior players not selected feedback into East Gippsland and Omeo District clubs. However, while the process worked in the early days, player retention is- sues have surfaced and Bairnsdale playing depth has taken a hit.

Bairnsdale president, Rob Soulsby, addressed club presidents at the meeting on Wednes- day about Bairnsdale’ s beliefs on why a reserves side would best for football in the region.

“This year there has been a lot more push from the players and coaches to have a reserves team,” he said.

“We believe some reasons for this is for depth for the senior playing side, which has been a real problem the past five or six years, to improve player development, assisting the development of football and build player loyalty, belonging and overall player enjoyment.

“It would remove some of the uncertainty for East Gippsland Football Netball League (EGFNL) clubs and some of the Omeo District Football Netball (ODFNL) clubs on weekly selection as I know that has been challenging in the past as clubs some- times have to wait on the Bairnsdale senior side selection.

“We have had quite a bit of junior success over the last eight years you could say through the under 16s and 18s side, but it is just not flowing onto senior success.

“Player retention at the senior level has been challenging for various reasons but the overall model has been challenging to maintain a squad of 30 players and keep them happy with the system.”

With low senior squad numbers, Soulsby and the Bairnsdale committee believes that the club is relying far to heavily on the under 18 side to step up and fill senior voids.

“On one hand it is good as it gives those youngsters plenty of opportunity to play seniors at the highest level, but in a lot of cases its not fair on the kids and while it might be good for them to get an opportunity, they are still kids and not really ready to play multiple games at that senior level.”

BFNC ran a club survey, encompassing players, officials, parents, sponsors and sup- porters, to gauge the club’s position on the matter. The results showed between 85-90 per cent were in favour of a reserves side.

The current alignment system has been a hot topic for some time, however if Bairnsdale fields a reserves teams, this system would change significantly on the senior front.

Orbost Snowy Rovers’ president, Royston Nettleton, backed Bairnsdale’ s decision for a reserves side.

“I personally think you should have them and I think that the juniors should go alone in all the grades,” he said.

“I know we love having our juniors back, but the loyalty issues of players coming and going just annoys me and through my involvement through Maffra footy club and what they do with their seconds and why they might be as successful as they are is that their players do their time in the seconds and it helps them out in the long run and for your club to have a good vibe.

“I know the seconds are an important part of our club and think that they would be an important part of Bairnsdale.”

Soulsby responded, saying the way the cur- rent system works is not allowing the Redlegs to achieve success.

Lucknow president, Brian McNamara, raised the topic of what impact a Bairnsdale reserves side would have on the EGFNL.

“Even if you do pull nine or 10 players out of the under 18s and get them to stay around and even to get those 15 players out of East Gipps- land is going to have a major impact, particularly on the standard, and its probably going to impact the Bairnsdale-based clubs and Paynesville and Lakes Entrance,” he said.

McNamara also said that Bairnsdale is not going to get the support of Boisdale Briago- long and Stratford.

Paynesville president, Wayne Barnes, sec- onded McNamara and believes that it will make Boisdale and Stratford even stronger.

Soulsby said the process would face challenges.

“We know it will be challenging for the area and there may have to be some changes and its all been about sustainability,” he said.

“Our current model is not sustainable and that is the feedback we are getting from our players, members and supporters.

“We see the reserves side as a way forward.”

Former Bairnsdale coach, player and current Wy Yung coach, Shaun Mooney, is in a strong position to voice his thoughts having seen both sides.

“Having coached there for three years at major league level I probably forgot what it was like with reserves, but I have seen the turnover of players, I’ve played with a lot of the boys and the turnover of players of the past five or six years has been about 12 a year, but I think before that it was even more,” he said.

“It’s hard for those new coaches that are coming in when you’ve got to implement a new game plan year after year and re-teach up to half your team when you are coming up against teams like Maffra who maybe change two to three players a season.

“I understand it is a difficult call, but I think it will certainly make the club better off.”

Bairnsdale supporter and local football iden- tity, Glen Heath, backed Mooney and said that for the senior club to have success a reserves side is a step in the right direction.

BFNC will make its final decision at a committee meeting on August 21.