Three clubs will be added to the Murray Football and Netball League in 2018, despite the league playing out a full round of matches across the Easter break.
Shepparton East, Tungamah and Katandra will all join the league after choosing to remain aligned with AFL Goulburn Murray when Picola District Football Netball League severed ties with the governing body earlier this month.
The three clubs along with Dookie United have been in a constant state of meetings and discussions in order to find a solution and ensure their members can take to the field or court this season.
But Dookie United has been homed by Kyabram District Football Netball League, with the committee considering the long-term future of the club.
AFLGM general manager Martin Gleeson said it was a great outcome.
‘‘When these clubs made the decision they did, we made a promise to them that they would get to play,’’ he said.
‘‘I think it’s a relief for them and for everyone else involved that they just get to play football and netball. It’s a wonderful reflection on the four clubs as well as on the Murray and Kyabram leagues.’’
Gleeson said that discussions would now open up about what the future would hold for next year, with AFLGM open to a future relationship with the PDFNL.
‘‘If it means we have a relationship with the league under the AFL banner next year, we’d be there with open arms. If it means these clubs want to strengthen their relationships with their new leagues we would be more than happy to help.
‘‘Our priority is to get people playing, so we are happy to do whatever is required to give those opportunities.’’
MFL general manager Dale Norman now has to create an amended fixture to adjust to the now 15-team competition, working on possibilities last week.
With six games going ahead on Good Friday, the three former PDFNL clubs will begin their season on April 7 as either a bye or split round will be added to ensure equal games played.
A revised KDFNL draw will have Dookie United become the 14th club in the competition, joining in the league’s opening round next weekend.
On Thursday night AFL GM confirmed where the clubs were headed, but stated the arrangements were just for the current season as it will review the make-up of the leagues for future years.
With the situation playing out throughout last month, the saga’s biggest toll was on unpaid presidents and committee members who were in a desperate rush to find a way forward.
Shepparton East president Mark Frost acknowledged that all four clubs and the leagues in the region had been affected by the uncertainty.
‘‘This debacle has had a large impact on not only the 17 clubs that were associated with the PDFNL, but also the KDFNL and MFNL in the last week,’’ he wrote in a letter to club members as well as all the leagues involved.
‘‘It has had an impact on club committees, players, volunteers and members.
‘‘We have seen players and members leave and divide with opinions differing within several clubs.’’
With a plethora of options considered including a four-team competition as well as various ways to be accommodated by other leagues, Katandra president Corey Wilson wrote in a statement that ensuring all its members could still play was paramount.
‘‘In considering this decision the committee took into account maintaining our current club structure and continuing to provide sporting opportunities for community members from juniors through to seniors,’’ he wrote.
‘‘It has been an extremely difficult period for all involved, but many people have made contact with the club from past players, members and supporters and those of opposition clubs over the last few weeks.’’
The MFL board still needs to officially ratify the changes at a meeting tomorrow.