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Picola District league willing to speak with Swanpool and Tatong

Picola District Football League has left the door open for Swanpool and Tatong to join the league for next season.

DAMEN FRANCIS January 9, 2014 4:15am

Picola District Football League president Shane Railton remains open to the possibility of wantaway Ovens and King Football League clubs Swanpool and Tatong joining the league next season.

The two clubs were recommended to undergo a three-way merger with fellow struggling club Goorambat, following an AFL North East Border Commission review into the viability of football in the region.

Swanpool and Tatong rejected the offer and were excluded from this year’s OKFL fixture, ratified at the league’s annual general meeting last month.

However, the two clubs have not been granted permission to negotiate with another league, because the deadline for opening such discussions was July 31.

At that time the review process was still to be completed.

The clubs requested an extension on that time frame at the discretion of AFL Victoria Country football manager Brett Connell, but it was denied ‘‘due to the impact such discussions would have on another league at this time of year (mid-December)’’.

However, Railton said that was not necessarily a concern for the PDFL board.

‘‘If it’s on the grounds of disruption to our league, I would have thought we would have been contacted to find out what sort of distraction it would have,’’ Railton said.

‘‘We have not spoken officially with Tatong-Swanpool and we haven’t heard from AFL Victoria Country in that regard.

‘‘AFL Vic Country certainly has not asked for our input or to my knowledge they are not even aware that we’ve done a fixture or anything like that, because it’s not on our website. It’s been circulated to our clubs, but it certainly hasn’t been publicised anywhere else.

‘‘It’s no real big issue for us, it’s a bit of restructuring of the draw, but at the moment nothing has really gone to print.’’

Railton first opened the door to Swanpool and Tatong two months ago, when he told The News the two clubs were welcome to make a presentation to the PDFL as ‘‘they would fit within what we believe is some form of expansion for our league’’.

While the door remains ajar as far as the PDFL is concerned, Railton said the decision to grant the two parties permission to speak rested with AFL Victoria Country.

‘‘If a club makes an application to us, we’ve got 21 days to give back an answer otherwise they’re accepted, so from our point of view if they get granted (permission to speak to us) we’ve got to consider it,’’ he said.

‘‘We haven’t even seen a presentation from (Tatong and Swanpool), so to predict what we may even come back with is a little bit unfair really.’’

As it stands, Tatong and Swanpool will have no on-field representation this year, despite still being considered part of OKFL, which is a major concern for Tatong president Felicity Munro.

The merge with Goorambat was rejected due to the proposed club being based at Goorambat — a town 60km from Tatong and Swanpool, which are 10km apart — and limited scope for negotiation of terms.

The clubs have appealed to Victorian Sport and Recreation Minister Hugh Delahunty and State Member for Benalla Bill Sykes, but to no avail.

Munro said legal action had been considered, but cost was an issue and the clubs were already looking to field a single team in PDFL’s south-east division.

‘‘This whole process has taken its toll on a lot of volunteers and a lot of people in both communities,’’ Munro said. ‘‘It’s no longer about the clubs, it’s no longer about communities, it’s no longer about families. The actions of AFL North East Border have made it about scoreboard results and about football and people have really lost faith in the whole concept of what it is to be a part of a club, so we’re having to pool our resources and try and draw that focus back into the family-based environment.

‘‘It’s an unfair battle and it’s fighting against scoreboard results, not against communities, so we’re trying to just enter into a league that has a few values that are a bit more in line with what we want.

‘‘We’re not going to go away, we’re going to do what we can to keep these footy communities and country towns alive.’’

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