Country footy club warns others against ‘honest mistake’ that cost it winning points

Echuca Football and Netball Club will launch an appeal after the club was found guilty of fielding ineligible players in its seniors and reserves side in round one against Rochester earlier this month.

Key points:

  • Echuca Football and Netball Club will appeal a decision that found them guilty of fielding ineligible players
  • Two players were registered but clearance had not come through for them to play
  • The club says a new administrative system is to blame and wants to warn other clubs of the issue

The club has been stripped of its winning points and copped a fine as a result.

Club president Ashley Byrne said issues with a new statewide administrative system led club leaders to believe there were no problems with the players’ clearances.

Mr Byrne said he was in disbelief over the severity of the penalties given the error was self-reported to the league and clubs were still grappling with the new system called PlayHQ, which was introduced at the beginning of this season.

“It was an honest mistake,” he said.

State-wide system changes

Both players were registered but, unbeknown to the club at the time, their clearance to play had not come through.

“It’s a different system to what it has been previously. If a player comes back as being registered, historically, clearance had automatically gone through,” Mr Byrne said.

“Both of these boys had come up registered … I’m not sure if there was an assumption that the clearance had gone through [because of how it previously worked] but it was overlooked.

“We got on the front foot straight away and advised the league that it had happened.”

He said clubs were still trying to navigate the system and learning how to use it and warned the issue might cost other country clubs.

“Part of us self-reporting was that we wanted to try to help other clubs be aware of the situation so that they didn’t have any issues,” Mr Byrne said.

“I think there would be a lot of administrators around country Victoria who are using this system at the moment and … there would be other errors around,” he said

Fears for volunteers

Football and netball clubs across the state have been struggling with volunteer shortages for some time and Mr Byrne said the complexity of the new system could see them lose even more.

He said even the most experienced administrators were spending several hours a day on the new system.

“There would be people who would be pulling the pin on administrating based on the severity of the penalty that Echuca has copped because they don’t want their clubs to be in that same boat.”

Mr Byrne said with both teams winning their respective games against Rochester, the players in question would not have impacted the results in his opinion.

“Both lads are young blokes who have come to Echuca this year to play a higher standard of footy. They haven’t come from … the VFL or anything like that,” he said.

“We’re hoping [the commission] will look at us with a bit of leniency and change [the decision].”

AFL Goulburn Murray was contacted for comment.



Author: Ivan Robinson