Portarlington says it supports the proposed restructuring of local football and netball – but has added a key condition to its backing.
Under the proposal flagged for introduction by AFL Barwon by the start of next year, there would be a ten-team Premier Division, a ten-team Division 1, and a minimum eight-team Division 2.
Based on recent performances, especially in senior and reserves football, the Demons, who join Ocean Grove as only the second Bellarine club to show a level of support for restructure publicly, appear most likely to land in the bottom tier – Division 2.
However, president Steve Cogger has urged AFL Barwon to give Portarlington, an active recruiter in its football and netball sections ahead of the 2024 season, an opportunity to demonstrate it can be competitive this year.
Former AFL trio Teia Miles, Connor Menadue and Jarryd Cachia have all signed with the Demons, who are winless since Round 16, 2018.
“Primarily, we support the plan,” Cogger told K rock Football. “But, we want to be given time to prove ourselves and our development … to allow us to finish what we’ve started.
“And to be given the opportunity not only to remain a Division 1 club but present ourselves as a Premier League club (in the future).”
Portarlington’s support for the process comes after Bellarine League president Michael Fitzgerald revealed to K rock Football last month that he believed a vote on the proposal would return a 9-1 result against.
Cogger says the club, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year, told AFL Barwon it fears for its future if placed in Division 2.
“Very fearful,” he said. “That could nearly be the end.
“That’s not being pessimistic in any fashion, but we’ve identified that we would lose a number of our quality players, our quality juniors, even our sponsors.
“Not being derogatory of Division 2, but the downturn in the quality of football and netball (would hurt us).
“We meet the criteria to go into Premier League except with the senior footy side of it. We’re bigger than a lot of clubs, and we have to cater for our junior programs now.
“Our vice-president, Emily Hoare, put it best when she said, ‘We don’t think we’ve got the energy to do it again – to drop a division and rebuild again – because we’re tired’.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position to show some improvement now, and we want to enjoy that.
“To go back to Division 2 means we would be starting that rebuild again, and we’re not sure we could cope with that.”
Cogger is the first to admit that if Portarlington could not show improvement over the three-year period AFL Barwon proposes to use as the performance period for promotion and relegation, they would be headed down if they landed in Division 1.
“We also understand the future,” he said. “You’ve got to have a plan, and you’ve got to be able to improve, and you’ve got to be able to demonstrate you’re improving.
“Sometimes these plans are put in place to do that, to allow a sport to develop and survive and get bigger and stronger.
“There’s a big growth area around the whole of Geelong now.
“Our facility improvements, with scoreboards, car park renovations, and fencing around the reserve, complement what we are as a club.”