‘Grow the game’: CWAFL’s focus on helping smaller clubs compete and join

NEW RIVALS: While Bathurst currently has three senior men's teams, they could be joined by outfits from smaller country towns if the Central West AFL adopts a two-tier competition. Photo: PHIL BLATCH
NEW RIVALS: While Bathurst currently has three senior men's teams, they could be joined by outfits from smaller country towns if the Central West AFL adopts a two-tier competition. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

Central West AFL hope to bring country clubs into the fold of the regional competition with the new proposed two-tier system which teams will be discussing in a fortnight. 

CWAFL men’s representative Nick Lowther said the focus was on making sure the competition would survive outside the “major centres” of Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo.

The proposal looks to split the men’s competition into Premier League and Country Cup divisions, with clubs like Young, Cowra, Parkes and Mudgee encouraged to re-enter into a 16-a-side competition. 

Orange Tigers, Bathurst Bushrangers, Bathurst Giants and Dubbo Demons would make up the top tier and development sides for the Bushrangers – and eventually, the league hopes, other clubs – to join the Country Cup. 

The women’s competition will remain unchanged, with 15 games a season in a 16-a-side competition. 

All clubs will come together alongside the CWAFL regional committee and AFL NSW on October 21 for a discussion and feedback on the proposal before the CWAFL go away and nut out the details. 

However, Lowther said even if the committee decides to push ahead with the change, it may not happen until 2020. 

“The proposal may not be put in place in 2019, even if we all agree on it and want to implement it we might not be able to,” he said.

“We’ve got three clubs [in the Country Cup] without men’s sides that will need to be put together.

“We’d have just six months to turn around and change the competition, it might not come in next year.”

Social media support has been strong for the Mudgee Black Swans to mount a return to the CWAFL in a lower tier, but Lowther said he was yet to hear any word on Cowra and Young, who will have discussions in coming weeks. 

However, Lowther said there had been “no indication” if any of those clubs would return to a single tier competition.

He said the idea was to "look at participation rates” to make it easier for smaller clubs to take part, reducing the number of games, and hence travel distance. 

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Lowther is also the Demons’ president, and said the club would be meeting on Monday night to canvass opinions from volunteers, players and other stakeholders, but said he personally thought action needed to be taken to help the competition. 

“I think we have to face the facts we have to help build these country clubs, and we have to integrate them,” he said. 

While few have debated the need to help smaller clubs, the proposed Premier League has sparked discussion of how Bathurst Bushrangers would split their sides.

In recent years, the Bushrangers have evenly split their list into two teams, but with both teams strong enough to make finals in 2018 the top-level side would be very strong indeed. 

However, there is nothing stopping the Bushrangers from doing that in the current climate, which Lowther pointed out. 

On Wednesday, Bushrangers president Brett Archer said his preference was to split into a first grade side of senior players and a “development side” for younger players in the Country Cup, but the club would discuss with players before making that decision. 

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