By DAVID NAGEL and RUSSELL BENNETT
A BITTER war of words has erupted – and an even bigger war is brewing – after the Pakenham Football Club launched an audacious bid to snatch this season’s Ellinbank and District Football League grand final.
Pakenham, one of the South East Football Netball League’s flagship clubs, submitted a proposal to the EDFL in response to its failure to lure the SEFNL grand final to its home base at Toomuc Reserve.
Officer will once again host the SEFNL grand final after conducting a very successful running of the event last year.
If Pakenham’s proposal is successful, it will mean the two biggest football leagues in the region will host their showcase events on the same day – and just five kilometres apart.
SEFNL chairman Kahl Heinze cut loose at Pakenham for what he said was a selfish attitude to football and netball in the region.
“In my opinion their (Pakenham) behaviour in regards to this has been childish, petulant, selfish, and extremely disrespectful to all of the SEFNL clubs and the broader SEFNL community,” Heinze said.
EDFL president Roger Gwynne made his own thoughts on the issue perfectly clear.
“Why would we want Pakenham?” he said.
“Why wouldn’t we use our own grounds?
“They want the gate, the bar, and the canteen … they don’t want much, do they?
“They sent at least a 10-page submission to us and it will be discussed in about 15 seconds.”
Gwynne said the matter would be raised at a meeting tonight (Wednesday), but he said – in his mind – “it’d be killing the both of us (the EDFL and SEFNL) having two grand finals that close together”.
He said issues with transport, security and available police would pose no end of problems, adding “I’m not even suggesting we look at it”.
Gwynne said EDFL fans could expect this season’s finals series to be played at a smaller selection of grounds capable of hosting multiple finals. The Gazette understands that Garfield – barring anything unforeseen – will host the 2016 deciders.
The Pakenham Football Club has responded to Gwynne’s claims, saying they are factually incorrect.
“The Pakenham Football Club, after consulting with the EDFL, was well aware the finals beverage package had been awarded to the Dusties (Warragul Industrials) for the finals of 2016,” the club commented on its website.
“In our submission, we noted that the Dusties could honour that contract and the EDFL would control the gate, security, and collect those moneys as per normal finals series. The position of the Pakenham Football Club was for the leagues to showcase their finals series/grand final on the best available facilities,” the statement read on.
“Our venue has a fantastic playing surface, great facilities, and for the biggest two weeks in the football calendar is sitting vacant. Due to the state of many grounds in the region, we decided to give the option of using the venue. The state of the grounds has been a topic in the area of late and the Pakenham surface is second to none.”
It is understood the PFC is disappointed it did not win hosting rights to year’s SEFNL grand final, considering $50,000 was spent on new netball courts, the condition of which was a key reason for not winning the hosting rights last year.
A source at the club said the Lions were being pro-active and thorough – not arrogant and money hungry, as the comments of Heinze and Gwynne may suggest.
According to the Lions there were two main reasons for the proposal being put forward.
“The reluctance of the SEFNL to utilise Toomuc Reserve for other than the second semi-final, and after hearing all the reports of the ground conditions in the Ellinbank League, the Pakenham Football Club decided to offer up Toomuc Valley Reserve to the EDFL,” the club said.
“Players in general through the district have voiced their expressions that they would love to play grand finals on Toomuc Reserve.”