SUNBURY has been thrown out of the Ballarat Football League under-18.5 football finals for an ineligible player.
The BFL called an emergency board meeting at 11am yesterday, and consulted the Victorian Country Football League, after it had confirmed the Lions took to the field in their 11-point elimination final win against Sebastopol with an unqualified under-16s player on Sunday. Red Onion BFL chief executive officer Rod Ward said the league had no choice but to reinstate Sebastopol back in the final series and the Burras will take Sunbury’s place in a semi-final against Bacchus Marsh in Darley.
Injury and player unavailability forced the Lions to call up a junior for a fourth player on the interchange and sought a player from junior ranks, who had filled in through the season.
Ward said the problem was in the fact Sunbury’s juniors were a completely separate entity, with an independent board and member of a different football league.
If Sebastopol needed to promote, under BFL by-laws, there would have been no problem. BFL finals qualification requires a player to have played a three-game minimum in the home-and-away season.
The player in question had only played two games for the Lions’ under-18.5s.
The BFL was alerted to the issue on Monday morning and gave Sunbury 24 hours to look into the matter.
Ward said the Lions were fully co-operative and accepted responsibility for “an inadvertent and unintentional administrative error”.
The Courier understands the player told club officials he had played three under-18.5s matches, which on closer inspection turned out to be two home-and-away matches and a practice match this year.
Ward said it was a tough decision and the BFL deliberated a long time before making the final call.
But under the rules, the BFL had no choice but to cut Sunbury from finals.
VCFL area manager Brett Anderson ratified the decision.
Ward said he felt sympathy for the club and its players.
Sunbury president Phil Lithgow broke the news to players at training last night.
This is the second time in four seasons a BFL under-18.5s team has been disqualified from finals.
North Ballarat City was booted out of the 2009 grand final for mistakenly playing an over-age player due to a system error in a second semi-final win against East Point.
The result was reversed and East Point advanced to the grand final.
Sebastopol was quick to try to spread the news yesterday via social networking that it was back in finals, notifying players to get to training at Marty Busch last night for a second chance.