AFL North Coast restructuring to focus on grassroots
AUSSIE Rules on the North Coast is undergoing a restructure as the 2015 season lurches to a close.
The weekend results in first grade, with two massive blowouts in the two games played, illustrate the problems facing AFL North Coast.
At Ellem Oval, Grafton, on Saturday Port Macquarie Magpies 25.16 (166) swooped on the Grafton Tigers 5.5 (35) and Sawtell Saints won the other game 24.29 (173) to 1.1 (7) over Coffs Harbour Breakers.
Macleay Valley Eagles, Grafton's opponent in the final game of the regular season next weekend, had the bye.
Newly appointed football operations manager Paul Taylor confirmed there was an ongoing restructure of the game in NSW.
This has included making AFL North Coast regional manager Rob McKelvie redundant and merging the North Coast district with the Hunter Central Coast AFL.
The merged group is under the control of Northern NSW manager Simon Smyth.
Taylor said the restructure aimed to remove levels of middle management while strengthening grass roots attachments to the game.
"We want to get more foot soldiers on the ground," Taylor said.
"The role of development coordinators will be expanded into fulltime roles.
"Recruitment for a fulltime development officer based in Coffs Harbour is underway and should be finalised next week."
Taylor said the new position will help current development officer Matt Crawley create more opportunities with clubs and schools to stage development clinics.
He said bleak performance of the code on the North Coast this winter has not been the major factor driving the restructure.
"The focus of AFL NSW/ACT has always been growing the game," he said.
"This is where the decision to remove levels of the middle management and concentrate more on the grass roots of the game came from."
Taylor defended the timing of the restructure, over the final weeks of the 2015 season, claiming it was vital the new structure was in place before the off season.
He said the off-season was the busy time for management, so it was vital the new structure was up and running soon.
"The football coordinators will run the football side of the operation separate from the management changes," he said.
Taylor said clubs were ultimately responsible for the standard of the competition, but there was a role for the governing body to support them.
"The concentration on the grass roots development of the game will include a club improvement program to help officials improve their clubs' performances," he said.
He said it was important AFL did not "drop the ball" with the seniors game, as it needed to provide a development pathway for the growing numbers of juniors playing the sport.
Taylor said there was a chance a team from Armidale will join the competition next year, after it made approaches to play this season.
"The team made an approach at the start of the season, but it was too late in the year to do it," he said.
"But the conversation is still happening. The North Coast rep team was in Armidale two weeks ago and there were talks about them joining the competition."
Taylor said there were also talks happening with other neighbouring districts, but did not want to release details.
At a local level Grafton Tigers president Rod Sheather said the home side has endured a horror season with the loss of a large number of senior players.
He said seven or eight under-18 players were backing up week in and week out and last week a number of people played their first game of the season.
He admitted it was far from an ideal set up, but there was little the club could do about it.
"It's a bit of a changing of the guard," he said. "Too many senior blokes retired at once.
"In a couple of years we'll have more under-18s coming through into seniors and under-15s coming up to 18s.
"It's just a bit too soon for us this year."
Despite the horror run, the Tigers are looking forward to semi-final football - in reserve grade.
"The competition rules allow the team finishing last in first grade to play in the reserve grade finals.
On Saturday the Tigers play the Macleay Valley Eagles at home.
Sheather said the Tigers have a 1-2 win loss record against the Eagles and cannot get off the bottom of the table even if they beat them.
"We don't want to finish fourth and play in the first grade semis and get another flogging," he said.
"We've got a chance of doing ok in the reserve grade finals."
Saturday's final game of the regular season is also the club's sponsors' day.
Sheather said the club will hold a trivia night at $10 a person at the Village Green Hotel on July 25.