Marc Greig was almost lost for words as the realisation that he would not be leading North Ballarat Roosters into battle in the VFL next year sank in on Thursday.
Greig, who had an option to extend his two-year tenure as head coach into a third season, had been hoping AFL Victoria would see fit to licence the Roosters for a 23rd season.
“I don’t know what to think.”
Greig said he was disappointed for the players.
He said they had committed themselves to the club and playing in the VFL, and now their football careers were up in the air.
AFL Victoria has stated it will assist players find new clubs if they wish to continue VFL careers, with operations manager John Hook prepared to meet with players to discuss their futures.
For Greig, the end of the road for the Roosters means more to him than most.
He has spent almost two decades with the club since graduating from the North Ballarat Rebels.
Greig has given his football heart and soul to the Roosters as a player – setting a club games record, serving as captain, and being a three-time premiership player – and since retiring at the end of 2012 as a line, assistant and head coach.
Greig said he had made telephone calls to his coaching panel, team leaders and as many plays as possible on getting the news of the AFL Victoria decision. He said all the players and support staff would get together at the Roosters’ presentation dinner this weekend.
“Devastating” and “shattering” were the words player Andrew Hooper used to describe the feeling among the players and staff at North Ballarat Roosters on hearing they would not be playing in the VFL next year.
Hooper found out about AFL Victoria’s decision to not renew the Roosters’ VFL licence in a phone message from coach Marc Greig while he was at work at Ballarat Specialist School.
“I’m feeling absolutely devastated, gutted, but I think the main one is really angry,” he said.
“It has been an unstable club for two or three years, since Fitzy (former coach Gerard FitzGerald) has been gone. It’s pretty disappointing… and this is the end result.”
Hooper said as a player it had been hard to compete and perform every week with “all the drama” which had been going on around the club.
The Roosters had just the one win this season and finished on the bottom of the ladder after three wins last year.
Hooper said he did not know where Thursday’s decision left him or his teammates.
“We’ve got eight to 10 contracted players for next year. What does it mean for them and how does it work them getting out of the contract?
“We’re going to have to have a meeting in the next week or so and try to work out what they want to do.”
Hooper said while Frankston managed to return to the competition after a year’s absence, he imagined it would be a lot more difficult for a country side.
“There is always a positive and hopefully we can go ahead but you never know,” he said.
“Having a year out, it’s going to be hard to get back to VFL level if the players go back to local footy. There is a big difference between local footy and VFL level.”
Hooper said the decision was also “shattering” for the football pathways in Ballarat after a great relationship was established between the Roosters and the Greater Western Victoria Rebels.
“The young players coming through, such as the Rebels, they’ve got no pathway, they have nothing after that,” he said.
“If they don’t get drafted, they’ve got nowhere to go. We want to get them to play at the highest level for as long as they can to create their dream, it’s going to be hard.”
Hooper said he felt for the club’s life members.
“All of a sudden we don’t have a VFL side anymore, that’s the devastating part,” Hooper said.
“We’re feeling angry and that but what are the life members feeling after what they’ve seen (in the past) and what they know now with where the club is at?”
UPDATE, 4.45pm: North Ballarat chairman John Nevett plans to address the media tomorrow morning.
When contacted by The Courier, Nevett said the announcement was still being analysed and he needed to meet with the club board.
He was unwilling to make any further comment at this stage.
EARLIER: Ballarat will be without a Victorian Football League team next year.
AFL Victoria on Thursday informed the North Ballarat Roosters it would not be renewing their VFL licence for 2018.
The termination comes after 22 seasons in the competition and two years of governance problems, including instability at board level.
North Ballarat has also struggled on the field over the past two seasons.
The Roosters won one game and finished last this year and three wins for second-last on the ladder in 2016 - a stark contrast to the golden era of three consecutive premierships in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
AFL Victoria rejected a submission by the Roosters' board of management for an extension of its licence.
AFL Victoria chief executive officer Steven Reaper told The Courier that the competition's governing body was not confident in the club's ability to meet the key requirements in its existing structure.
"After significant upheaval at board level in recent years at North Ballarat, AFL Victoria believes the current position the club finds itself from a governnance and on-field persepctive does not meet the key criteria needed for a continuation of the club's VFL licence
"It needs to get its act together.
"AFL Victoria needs to ensure there is a sustainable team in Ballarat - one that is representative of the region and is fully focused on state league presence," he said.
Reaper said a football review at the club indicated issues with the existing governance structure to support a VFL program, given it also had a focus at community level with North Ballarat City playing in the Ballarat Football League.
"When combined with the identified need to also restructure the on-field program, AFL Victoria believes all the proposed changes would take significant time to effectively implement.
"AFL Victoria believes the club would be better placed to focus on making the changes before again considering a VFL presence."
Reaper said there were also concerns surrounding the uncertainty of lease arrangements between the club and City of Ballarat at Mars Stadium.
He said any future entity needed to form long-term relationships with key stakeholders in the region, and ensure all parties were working to grow the game in Ballarat and surrounding areas.
"With all parties working together, a quick return could be seen for a Ballarat entity in the VFL," he said.
More to come.
THE HISTORY OF THE ROOSTERS
HOW THE PLAYERS AND FORMER PLAYERS REACTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA