Respected senior coach Greg Middleton believes the Central Highlands Football League is suffering from the growing disparity in ground quality compared to the neighbouring Ballarat competition.
Middleton, a premiership coach with Bungaree who now leads Skipton, said the numerous upgrades to venues in Ballarat are making it more attractive to play in the BFL.
“Probably what I’ve seen coming back out to the Central Highlands after having a couple of years off is that it has been a lot harder to attract players. And the calibre of player that’s now in the competition probably isn’t what it has been in the past four to five years,” he said.
“I guess one of the reasons you look at is potentially the ovals and the facilities. Obviously, with the BFL forging ahead with new ovals and upgraded facilities, it does make it that little bit more difficult to attract the players out there when they can play on a top-line surface compared to a bit of a mud pile throughout the year.”
Sebastopol’s brand new surface at Marty Busch Reserve will be officially unveiled on Saturday night and follows major upgrades at Eureka Stadium, Alfredton Reserve and CE Brown Reserve in Wendouree. City Oval is another BFL ground set for an overhaul.
There has been upgrades to some Central Highlands grounds in recent years – one is currently underway at Smythesdale – but most suffer badly during the peak of winter.
“When you are trying to attract players – and unfortunately there is a lot of clubs attracting players from the same pool – things like that (grounds) definitely come into it when you speak to them,” Middleton said.
AFL Goldfields general manager Rod Ward applauded City of Ballarat for its investment in football and netball in its jurisdiction.
Ward said AFL Goldfields had just finished an audit of all regional facilities and that it plans to assist those clubs to help get funding for improvements.