Sunbury considers leaving the Ballarat Football League

THE Ballarat Football League could lose one of its powerhouse clubs as early as next year, with Sunbury considering shifting leagues.

Sunbury has informed BFL management that it is considering moving to another league as early as next year, with the Bendigo Football League and Riddell District Football League considered as alternate options.

Sunbury will meet with the BFL on Sunday, May 25 to discuss its future in the league after club supporters questioned the club's relevance to Ballarat.

Club president Phil Lithgow said the movement was simply an "exploration of options at the moment," in that there was still a lot of discussions that needed to be held.

Lithgow said the geographic position of the Sunbury made it difficult to find a suitable home to play high quality football.

He said the club had ruled out moving to the neighbouring Essendon District Football League, since it would be unable to compete with player payments in that league.

"It's not that we're unhappy with the league. In fact, I think the respect we have for the league is the one thing that has kept us here for so long," Lithgow said.

"We're in a funny geographic position that makes it difficult for us to find a home."

Sunbury moved to the BFL in 1997 after crossing from the RDFL when it disbanded its two-tier system, winning three consecutive premierships upon entering the league.

The Lions have won five flags and finished runner-up six times in 17 years in the BFL to date, never missing a finals series.

Lithgow said it was unlikely the club would move next year, but said it was still a possibility if the club decided to move that way.

"It may well end up we being that we stay where we are," he said.

"We will sit down with the BFL first and then we will try to get all three leagues in the one room and explore our options."

In a statement on its website, Ballarat Football League operations manager Aaron Nunn said the league would sit down with Sunbury and discuss future options.

"It goes without saying that the BFL is committed to working with the Sunbury through this process, and we regard them as an important and highly regarded member of our league," Nunn said.

"However, we respect the right of Sunbury to consider all options available to them for a long term and viable future, and we recognise the important role the club plays in their community."

Both the RDFL and Bendigo Football League's said they had been contacted by Sunbury but were yet to hold any discussions.

AFL Central Victoria regional manager Justin Abrams said the Bendigo league would discuss the matter at a board meeting on Friday night.

"We would be interested in having discussions, but it is very early days," he said.

"We're not actively chasing another club. Our short-term goal is to make sure the clubs we have are strong."

If Sunbury was to move to the Bendigo league, it would be able to renew its intense rivalry with Gisborne and Kyneton.

Lithgow said his club would make a decision before the end of June.

SUNBURY'S HISTORY IN BFL

1997 - Crossed to the BFL along with Melton, Melton South and Darley after the RDFL disbanded its two-tier system, winning a premiership in its first year in the league. The Lions' flag ended North Ballarat's streak of the three straight premierships.

1998 - Goes back-to-back with another premiership, again coached by Dean Lupson.

1999 - Lupson makes it three in a row for Sunbury, establishing them as a dominant force in the BFL.

2002 - The fierce rivalry with Redan gains its first legs, with Sunbury going down in the grand final.

2003 - Another year, another grand final loss - losing to Redan again.

2004 - Finally, revenge. Sunbury defeat Redan in the grand final, claiming its fourth premiership in eight years.

2005 - Sunbury loses its third grand final in four years, this time going down to Melton.

2007 - Again, another grand final defeat, finishing runner-up to Redan yet again.

2010 - The Lions drop just one game in the home and away season, but get bundled out of the finals in straight sets.

2011 - More heartbreak at the hands of Redan, losing the grand final by just two points in a classic.

2012 - Sunbury gets one back over its old foe, smashing Redan by 57 points to claim its fifth BFL flag.

2013 - Surrenders yet another premiership, defeated by North Ballarat City in the grand final.

2014 - Considers shifting to either the RDFL or Bendigo Football League.

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