By: Graham Halbish – Chairman – Eastern Football League
We look forward to Saturday’s Eastland Premier Division Grand Final clash between the Vermont Football Club and the Blackburn Football Club.
For Blackburn, it is its first top-tier senior grand final since 1975.
Congratulations to all teams who have won premierships this year across our football and netball competitions. Attendances and crowd behaviour have been excellent. The support for our women’s teams playing in grand finals in both football and netball has been a real highlight.
Fairpark broke a 24-year premiership drought to win the Division 4 senior grand final and South Belgrave made it a clean sweep winning all three grades in Division 3. In Division 2, the Mitcham Football Club won the flag, a kick after the siren by Ringwood fell agonisingly short, and in Division 1, Doncaster East proved too strong for Croydon winning by 36 points.
This year marks the first year of the five-year 2019-2023 Strategic Planning Period for the League, with the key pillars being: Clubs, Participation, Community and Partnerships, Operational Excellence and Financial Management. With the plan essentially rolling over with minor updates, the formal review of our performance continues. The period has seen some real highlights and many significant reforms that have helped the League and our clubs continue to prosper. Some of these include:
- Female participation in football and netball has grown to over 25-plus per cent of total participants.
- A record number of night, twilight and four game schedules were played to accommodate our growing competition.
- The attendances at the Deakin University Eastern Region Women’s grand finals showcased just how far women’s football has come since starting in 2017.
- Significant investment in club facilities by councils, AFL Victoria and government.
- Match-day vision provided by LKLM Media and Sportscast Australia including game-day tagging and highlight videos.
- The divisional restructure, delivering more competitive games across the League.
- Increased investment in game and club development resources.
- Continued growth in the League’s media operations and digital footprint.
- Delivered a more user-friendly and functional website.
- Continued League financial stability that has resulted in fixed charges to clubs seeing only minor CPI increases to umpire charges and insurance, while being financially capable to assist clubs through trading difficulties.
The last three years has seen more change than the previous 10 years and we expect this evolution window to continue to shorten. We must continue to evolve the game, attract more multicultural players to the game, listen to our clubs and make changes to accommodate changing lifestyles and differing levels of competitiveness.
I’d like to recognise the valued support of our EFL sponsors, our naming rights and major sponsor Eastland, major community partner Bendigo Bank, and major sponsors Deakin University, Yarra Valley Water, BJS Insurance Brokers, carsales, Channel Nine, 1116 SEN and Trojan Tools. To all our other sponsors, suppliers and partners, thank you for your continued support of the League.
The support of all our sponsors, partners and suppliers enables the League to continue to operate as we do and to provide the high level of service to our clubs that has seen the EFL hold the position of prominence it does within the wider community.
As you would have seen on entry, each year we donate to the Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation as part of finals entry prices, a partnership that has been of tremendous benefit to both organisations. Our donation this year will take that total to well over $220,000. As a major contributing partner to the Critical Circulatory Support Service (CCSS) project at the Box Hill Hospital, we are excited to be part of the final installation of this project at Box Hill’s Intensive Care and Cardiac Units.
Across our junior and senior, male and female finals, 33 clubs have hosted finals and from the feedback we have received they all did a marvellous job of hosting. It is an important part of how the League operates and we are proud of the fact that we manage such a significant event ‘in-house’.
We thank Knox Council and Bayswater FC for hosting Saturday’s game, one the biggest events held annually in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and one which requires a significant amount of planning and effort to present. Groundskeeper Michael Oxworth has done a great job in preparing the surface.
With the Eastern Region Australian Rules Football Facility Strategy now in the final review process, we look forward to working closely and proactively with all councils and government for the benefit of our clubs and the wider community. We have seen significant investment across the east in facility improvements and we look forward to this gaining even more momentum over the coming years.
I’d like to thank my fellow EFL Board members, the Junior Committee led by Leon Bailey, and the EFL staff for their efforts this season. As the League gets bigger, so does the workload with matches now being played from Friday night all the way through to Sunday night.
Finally, to the volunteers who are the heart and soul of EFL footy, I say thank you for your immense contribution. We are all proud to be part of the EFL family and it’s the cumulative efforts of the individuals within our clubs that help maintain the League’s high standing in the wider community.
Our newly implemented five-division structure provides more teams with the opportunity to experience finals, with promotion and relegation working to restore competitive balance. Footy and netball is alive and well in the east and we take the responsibility to maintain and grow this with extreme pride and a keen sense of duty.
Thank you all for your support in 2019 and we look forward to three great games on Saurday. May the best teams win.