The future of the Benalla and District Junior Football League is uncertain following the release of an AFL-sanctioned regional review into junior football.
The regional review recommends that the BDJFL fully integrates into the Wangaratta District Junior Football League next year.
While an AFL-led working group has been established to transition the Benalla-based league to Wangaratta, the decision is not supported by some players, parents and coaches, who claim it will negatively impact football in Benalla.
The BDJFL manages the Benalla Auskick Centre, under-12 junior development competition and four under-14 and 16 teams.
In 2014 the BDJFL entered its under-14 and 16s teams in the WDJFL competition after its local under-17 competition was reduced to three sides.
The AFL review has now recommended that Benalla’s under-12 competition, and its 70 local players, follow suit to become part of the Wangaratta-based competition.
Auskick will remain unaffected and will continue in its current format.
AFL North East Border regional general manager John O’Donohue said he had been in talks with a committee from Benalla discussing the move.
‘‘We are undertaking that with Benalla executives and are working with them to integrate into next season,’’ O’Donohue said.
‘‘How that looks and when it works is under consultation.’’
BDJFL president Glen Davis said the move to Wangaratta would create challenges.
‘‘Just to be clear, the AFL will only offer the BDJFL under-12 competition affiliation if we join the WDJFL in 2018,’’ Davis said.
‘‘Affiliation gives us discounted player and club insurance, access to certified training, access to talent pathways and other benefits.
‘‘Travel is a concern and no doubt will be challenging moving forward.’’
O’Donohue said as part of the move, Benalla players would play away matches in Wangaratta, Bright and Myrtleford.
But they would also have 10 home matches.
‘‘Everyone will have an opinion and that’s why there is a process that we go through,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s been on the agenda for a long time, and we have had correspondence for a long time working towards this for the benefit of football in this region.’’