The Riddell District Football Netball League is aiming to get the competition back on track after ending its alignment with AFL Goldfields and returning to a metro league.
After a number of tough years, including four senior clubs moving to other competitions, the RDFNL made a number of changes behind the scenes in 2020, while football and netball competitions were sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
RDFNL general manager Jordan Doyle said it was an exciting time for the league moving forward.
AFL Goldfields, which is based in Ballarat, previously oversaw the running of three leagues, including the RDFNL and the Ballarat Football Netball League.
Both the RDFNL and BFNL have decided to run their own competitions from this year.
“It is pretty exciting,” Doyle said.
“There’ve been a few hard years. The plan is to rejuvenate and get back into the local community more as many people saw the competition as a Ballarat one.
“The board has taken back the competition. We want to get momentum and to get our identity back after the last few years in the wilderness.”
Doyle said the board first spoke about moving away from Goldfields in late 2019 before continuing talks last year.
He said all clubs were unanimous that they wanted to move away from AFL Goldfields and return to being a metro league.
Doyle said the changes made off field wouldn’t impact on the football and netball competitions on field.
“It will not be changing on the field. It’s still the same volunteers and the same faces.”
He said they were already starting to see the results of leaving AFL Goldfields.
Clubs had to pay an affiliation fee to Goldfields, which had 11 full-time employees. The RDFNL now has just two staff members and a consultant.
“We want to be able to engage with the local community,” Doyle said.
“We want to work with sponsors in Melton, the Macedon Ranges, Sunbury and the Wallan areas.
“There were costs associated with AFL Goldfields. It had been a lot of money before a footy was kicked or a netball was thrown and it was a toll on clubs.”
Doyle said they had signed four new local sponsors and had moved some of the administration, such as banking and accounting, to local businesses.
The league has been able to sign its own apparel sponsor, which will also result in a reduction in costs.
Changes to salary caps across the state mean the RDFNL will be more competitive with neighbouring leagues.
Doyle said the league would have more say in the salary cap and points allocation, which were previously set by AFL Goldfields.
“We were right on the border of three metro leagues and we got the rough end of that,” he said.
“Clubs will be able to compete better with the salary cap coming down.”
The league has already started looking to the future, with female football and expansion on the cards.
Girls footy will kick off for the first time in 2021. Junior girls teams have previously played AFL Goldfields competitions.
“It’s really exciting,” Doyle said. “We’ve maybe been a little bit slow and relied on AFL Goldfields in the past.
“Junior girls have had to go up to Ballarat. Now they will play in RDFNL areas and will have that RDFNL branding and feel.
“We’ve got some great juniors coming through. We’ll have our own pathway and hopefully a women’s competition down the track.”
The league will run the Club 18s competition, which had also previously been run by AFL Goldfields.
Currently four clubs have committed to fielding sides in this competition, including Eynesbury which will field it’s first open age side.
Doyle said it was exciting to get to this stage and he hoped a few new teams would have senior teams in the competition.
“Eynesbury is looking to enter at least one side, possibly more, this year,” Doyle said.
“The Gisborne Giants have been around for quite some time and have under-17s this year and under-19s next year. Gisborne is big enough to have two senior teams.
“We’re in some conversations with clubs from other leagues. We’ve felt the brunt of other leagues looking for clubs and we have lost clubs.
“We’re down to nine clubs, but hopefully we’ll expand with Eynesbury, Gisborne Giants and hopefully a couple of others.”