Despite rich BFL history Lions might be set to leave

Team spirit: Sunbury players in a huddle. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Team spirit: Sunbury players in a huddle. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

IT IS hard to imagine the Ballarat Football League without Sunbury in it.

However, the Lions find themselves in the unenviable position of not truly feeling at home in the Ballarat league, nor anywhere else for that matter.

Despite its rich history in the BFL that has spawned five premierships in 17 years, including making the finals in every one of its years in the competition, Sunbury is genuinely considering parting ways with the league.

On the surface, it might seem a logical and reasonable proposition, especially given six of the clubs Sunbury competes against are located more than an hour away.

But, in reality, there is no better option.

The Riddell District Football League has been mentioned as an alternate league; Sunbury’s home before crossing to the BFL in 1997.

If playing at the highest possible standard is the aim however for the Lions, it would be wrong to suggest RDFL as a suitable alternative.

Even still, RDFL clubs would have to vote in favour of welcoming Sunbury back into the league, which is hard to imagine in itself.

The Essendon District Football League was crossed off the list early, due to the rapidly increasing player payments in the metro leagues.

With some clubs believed to be spending close to half a million dollars each year, it would simply be impossible for Sunbury to compete.

That leaves the Bendigo Football League, another very possible move for Sunbury.

However, if the club was to move away from the Ballarat Football League with a feeling of irrelevance said to be one of the key factors, it is unlikely it would feel any more at home in Bendigo.

Yes, the great rivalry with Gisborne, and to a lesser extent Kyneton, would be of huge benefit to the club.

But of the other eight teams in the league, none fall within 85 kilometres.

Compare this to the status quo in the Ballarat league, where the five eastern bloc teams (Sunbury, Bacchus Marsh, Darley, Melton and Melton South) all fall within 40 kilometres of each other.

To suggest the geographical isolation is a driving factor behind thinking about leaving Ballarat is a fair argument, but in no way can it make Bendigo a better option – Sunbury would actually end up travelling more.

It is commendable the club has been open and honest when stating its intentions, while it is also good to have discussions early in the year, rather than distracting the club later on in the year as it pushes for its 18th straight finals appearance.

It is unlikely, yet still possible, we will see any change next year.

Let’s just hope the right decision is made, for the interests of all the league’s (and one very proud club) involved.

patrick.nolan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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