Ocean Grove has revealed its ambition to be part of local football and netball’s top flight – whether or not AFL Barwon’s planned restructure goes ahead.
The Grubbers, who field a region-high 64 teams across both sports, see positives in the proposal, featuring up to 28 teams in three divisions, headlined by a ten-team premier division starting in 2025.
Club president Pete Smith is the first to admit Ocean Grove’s onfield football results aren’t yet at the standard required.
However, he says an opportunity to provide locally-produced talent playing in the GFNL a chance to represent their hometown at the highest level locally is hard to ignore.
“We’re losing players when we’d like to give them that opportunity ourselves to play at the highest level for their hometown,” Smith told K rock Football.
“We’re big enough, in terms of the number of teams we put on the park each week.
“We’re not ready to compete yet. But at a point in time, we like to think we would be.
“There’s also financial considerations we’d have to think about as well.
“If it did come in in 2025, we’re not saying we’d be ready. But what we have been saying is that we’re interested in the concept and happy to pursue it at a point in time.
“But onfield (football) performance and off-field resources have got to be better aligned for us at the moment before we’d consider it.”
Smith says “aspirational” is the buzzword at Shell Road, where premiership cups in A-grade, C-grade and under-15 Division 1 netball and under-16 Division 1 and 3 football entered the trophy cabinet in 2023.
“We use that term a lot around the committee table,” he said.
“And we don’t think there’s anything wrong with being an aspirational club – it’s something we’re proud of.
“We’re in a position that we can, resource-wise, see ourselves being able to compete at that level.”
A question on what Ocean Grove’s alternative options are if the proposed restructure doesn’t go ahead has been asked by the Grubbers of AFL Barwon.
“Is there a Plan B for not only us but for any other club that has aspirations,” Smith said.
“We haven’t spoken to them in a lot of detail.
“But that’s what we’d like to see – a potential Plan B.”
Smith says rival Bellarine clubs and the BFNL board are aware of Ocean Grove’s ambitions.
“They’re fine with that; no one’s holding any grudges against us,” he said. “It’s just around being open with the communication.
“We need to communicate with our members as well; that’s the next step we need to do.
“But it really depends on what AFL Barwon do before we communicate with them in any formal sense.”