By Nick Creely
While there is plenty of noise around the long-term sustainability of the AFL Outer East model , three of the south-east clubs involved in the competition have staunchly defended the league and have committed long-term to its plans.
With Beaconsfield looking likely to land in the Eastern Football League, Doveton to the Southern Football Netball League and Cranbourne exploring the option of joining the Mornington Peninsula league again – off the back of Berwick’s departure last season – there is plenty of chatter about whether the league’s long-term future is secure.
However, two former members of the now-defunct SEFNL who aligned with the AFL Outer East, Officer and Pakenham, as well as competition newcomer Berwick Springs, who put together a promising debut senior football and netball season, have come out strongly with a message for those that are doubting its future place in the community.
That they’re committing to the competition’s future, and have no plans to explore their options elsewhere..
“The future of football has been a long-standing sore point for clubs in our region for a number of years, however in my mind this matter was resolved for our club when we joined
AFL Outer East in 2019,” Officer president Nick McLennan told the Gazette.
“Our club has really enjoyed our time in the AFL Outer East. We’ve been given the opportunity to play competitive football which has been important for our players and supporters.”
Pakenham president Travis Hamilton said that for his club it’s been the right move both on and off the field.
“We’ve found the competition to suit Pakenham and the needs of our club,” he said.
“Outer East have been accommodating to the clubs’ needs and very helpful, their leadership the group has been great to deal with.
“The club looks forward to working with Outer East in the Premier Division in season 2022.”
And for Berwick Springs president Ashley Allison, the formation of the senior club has been a great success in the AFL Outer East. The Titans snagged a few senior football wins in its first season under esteemed coach Rodney Benstead and were ultra-competitive in A Grade netball and through the grades.
The club has also moved into its new home at Mick Morland Reserve, and have settled in nicely.“Our decision to be a part of Outer East Football Netball League has been a great move,” he said.
“We have been supported with advice and direction by the OE team throughout a tough couple of years. Aaron, Cameron and the team are always accessible with regular proactive communication.”
McLennan added that from on off-field perspective, clubs have saved considerable funds, particularly from clubs joining from the SEFNL, and are full of praise for development type programs, particularly in the mental health space.
“Off field the commission has also helped our club go from strength to strength. Our league fees have been dramatically reduced, yet in return we have been provided more support
than ever before,” he said.
“One of the things I have been most impressed by is the work being done by Aaron Bailey and others in the development of new clubs. We’ve already seen Berwick Springs grow with great success and I understand there will be another new club coming to the league very soon.
“The Officer Senior Football Club is here to stay and we have no plan to go anywhere.”