THE merger of boards and streamlining the off-field processes of local football and netball competitions were amongst the major recommendations presented by the AFL Sunraysia Project Management Team (PMT) to stakeholders this week.

The establishment of a Sunraysia Regional Administration Centre (RAC), the appointment of an umpire manager and changes to junior football grades were also amongst recommendations outlined in the draft report of the Sunraysia Regional Strategic Plan.

The Plan was established to make recommendations for the optimal structure of football and netball; including league structures, junior ages, governance and administration and umpire resources, and to develop a five-year strategic plan.

A widely representative PMT was commissioned in late 2018 under the AFL rules to prepare this report for presentation to the stakeholders and receive their feedback. 

The information was collated and the draft report relayed by Independent Chair, John Brookshaw, to representatives at club and board level from Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL), Millewa Football League (MFL), Millewa Netball Association (MNA), Sunraysia Women’s Football League (SWFL), Sunraysia Football Umpires Association (SFUA) and Millewa Umpires on Tuesday.

Further feedback from stakeholders will be taken on board in the coming months, with the clubs involved deciding what recommendations to take on board, and which they wish to let slide.

“This is a bottom up review centred on, what is the best outcome which will improve and build the capacity of all clubs,” Mr Brookshaw said.

“Without clubs we neither have leagues, nor commissions.

The final recommendations need to be agreed to by a majority of clubs and organisations.

“The report has been drafted by a wide range of individuals who are committed to the advancement of football and netball in the region.

“The recommendations contained in the report provide clubs with an opportunity to improve the regional structures and address clubs’ most pressing concerns with the potential support and approval of the AFL.”


Under the major recommendations banner is the merger of the SFNL, MFL, MNA and SFUA into one ‘Sunraysia-Millewa Board’, which would be responsible for development of all football and netball across the region.

The establishment of a RAC would reduce the number of volunteers needed at board level and club level by improving expert services.

The RAC would also be responsible for operations management, allowing the board to focus on governance and strategic planning.

It is also recommended that the Sunraysia, Central Murray and Wimmera Mallee commissions form one overarching commission to reduce over-governance. The North West Victoria Commission would not run leagues, but be a point of appeal for clubs who would believe they may be disadvantaged by any decisions.


The merger of the SFUA and Millewa Umpires into a single umpiring body would cover all football competitions, and improve management.

The appointment of a full-time or part-time umpire manager could be the catalyst for further attracting, developing and retaining umpires. The manager would be based at the RAC and take care of administration duties.


From data and feedback, the PMT found that players at Under 18 level were being increasingly used to fill in at senior and reserve level.

The recommendation has been made to change junior competitions to Under 17, Under 15, Under13 and Under 11 level, with colts in U15, U13 and U11 levels to cater for clubs with excess junior players.


The seventh and final major recommendation of the PMT would be for the board to improve their support to clubs, which would include developing strategic plans, providing training for club volunteers or encouraging clubs to employ administrators, and to restructure finances so they assume complete responsibility for umpires.


Supplementary recommendations made by the PMT include improving governance structures of the new board; improving the sporting environment, strengthening links between clubs and umpires; building the capacity of the netballers; supporting clubs to improve their junior development culture; refurbishing the SFNL offices to initially house the new RAC, building the capacity of football umpires; training the board on good governance; and developing a set of procedures for the Equalisation policy.


The Project Management Team: Trevor Heaft (AFL Sunraysia), Trevor Ryan (AFL Sunraysia FDM), Brendan McGillivary, Peter Rhoden, Karen Martin (SFNL), John Hall (MFL), Alison Surgey (MNA), Adam Henschke (SFUA), Ros Milverton (Independent), John Brookshaw (Independent Chair), Bruce Petering (AFL RGM). Guests: Paul Moore, Brad Purdue (Mille Umpires), Paul Matheson, Mark Rogerson, (SFNL), Amanda Glossop (SFUA).