Two former Picola District Football Netball League clubs are heading home for the 2021 season.
Current Murray league duo Katandra and Tungamah have been accepted in principle to return to the Picola league following presentations to the league board and member clubs on Wednesday night, held via Zoom.
It means — barring any last-minute hiccups — the clubs will return to the league they departed at the beginning of the 2018 season when the PDFNL opted not to affiliate with AFL Goulburn Murray, while also meaning it will grow to a 15-team competition.
PDFNL operations manager Shane Railton said a significant improvement of the relationship between the parties in the following two years made reuniting a win for football and netball in the region.
“This year it was a full commitment, and to be honest, 2018 was not a great year for any of us, but time does heal, and the relationship between the league and the clubs has improved tenfold in the last 12 months,” he said.
“The process of negotiations has been really good, the clubs have been really willing to share the information required, and they're keen to ensure they're not coming in and trying to have a lot of influence and change things.
“The message from the current clubs has been they want things to stay the same, they overwhelmingly do not want change and they feel we're on a good course, and the two clubs are really keen to be a part of that.”
The most significant stable factor for the league moving forward will be continuing to have one unified competition, as opposed to the two-conference, 17-team league in operation before 2018.
An 18-round, 16-game fixture appears the most likely fixturing solution, with each team to play two clubs twice and the others once each season, with the doubled fixtures on a seven-year rotation to ensure fixture integrity.
Of the reasoning behind the clubs’ return, Railton suggested long-term sustainability — particularly via retaining juniors — was key.
“I think the overwhelming reason they wanted to leave was not the senior side of things, but the juniors,” he said.
“Often they were coming up against sides with a lot more top-age kids, perhaps taking on an under-14s side with more than 18 top-age players where our age range is a lot greater.
“They're probably a lot more suited to our league in that aspect, because I think they felt they could be competitive in a senior sense in the Murray league.”
While the move has been agreed in principle, a number of procedural steps remain necessary before it is official, including it being ratified at club AGMs, getting approval to leave from the Murray league and the payment of an application fee.