Dockers, Eagles reserves plans collapse
West Coast and Fremantle’s bid to have reserves teams in the WAFL is on the verge of collapse after the State league clubs refused to endorse the proposal to introduce a bye model next season.
At least six WAFL clubs remain vehemently opposed to a concept that would see them play 18 home-and-away rounds a season as well as four virtual scratch matches against Eagles and Dockers reserves teams.
WA Football Commission chief executive Gary Walton presented a draft paper to the nine WAFL presidents this week and remained confident that the clubs would not reject it out of hand.
But as Fremantle chief executive Steve Rosich said introducing a Dockers reserves team “remained a strategic priority”, several WAFL presidents were adamant that the concept was not worth pursuing and should be abandoned.
The presidents said there was no prospect of AFL reserves being introduced next year because the working party – comprising the nine WAFL chief executives, West Coast boss Trevor Nisbett and Rosich – would not be able to produce a model until too late this season.
“That may be the case,” Walton said.
Six clubs – East Fremantle, East Perth, Peel, Subiaco, Swan Districts and West Perth – indicated that they had no interest in pursuing the reserves proposal and urged the WAFL to take it off the table.
The other three clubs wanted to maintain talks with the AFL clubs and commission, but were understood to remain sceptical about the proposal’s prospects.
“The reserves proposal is a dead duck,” West Perth president Brett Raponi said.
“We are 100 per cent opposed to it.
“It would devalue the competition, confuse the next generation of football followers and weaken the talent pool.”
East Fremantle president Con Tripi described the proposal as “a big pile of nothing”, while Swans’ Peter Harvey said the concept was “fundamentally flawed”.
Harvey feared that the introduction of AFL reserves would see the WAFL eventually mirror the demise of the current Victorian Football League which had barely any media interest or spectators attend matches, seen club identities and AFL-club affiliations change regularly and lost the culture and history of the original league.
“It is alarming to see what has happened in Victoria,” Harvey said.
“The WAFL and the local AFL clubs need to take heed of what has happened there. There is a strong football culture here that provides a good environment for AFL players to develop. Why would anyone want to jeopardise that?”
Harvey was also critical that the draft paper did not include any compensation for WAFL clubs.
“They presented an operation manual but it had a page missing – the one with the dollars written on it,” he said.
Rosich said Fremantle were waiting to examine feedback on the proposal before forming a view.
Nisbett could not be contacted.