SAINTS' FUTURE FOCUS: As clouds gather, Myrtleford acts

Myrtleford Saints captain Matt Dussin with his footy as clouds gather over the club. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON
Myrtleford Saints captain Matt Dussin with his footy as clouds gather over the club. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

MYRTLEFORD’S long-term future in the Ovens and Murray Football-Netball League is back in the spotlight with a crucial meeting scheduled for next week.

The Saints, who are enjoying a mini on-field resurgence with back-to-back wins in the past two rounds, are grappling with ways to remain in the O and M at a time when the gap between the top and bottom teams has never appeared bigger.

Former St Kilda chief executive Rick Watt, who is now based in the Ovens Valley, joined Myrtle­ford’s committee of management this year and has been part of a far-reaching analysis of the club’s plight in recent months.

O and M and AFL North-East Border officials have been invited to attend the meeting on Tuesday.

“Myrtleford Football-Netball Club is not sitting on its hands and doing nothing,” Watt said.

“The committee of management is in the process of reviewing its strategic direction, operational structure, marketing plan and its governance responsibilities.

“It is holding an information forum for sponsors, past players and good supporters to discuss these matters.

“As with all such reviews, no points of discussion are off limits.”

Options could include trying to forge ahead in its current structure or entertain a merger with a willing partner.

The worse case scenario for the O and M would be the Saints searching for a new league such as the neighbouring Ovens and King or Tallangatta leagues.

“The committee of management will put forward a plan and timetable to bring this review to a conclusion prior to the end of this season,” Watt said.

“The committee understands that the challenges that Myrtleford Football-Netball Club is facing are common to quite a few other clubs in the Ovens and Murray Football-Netball League.

“Some of the issues to be discussed at this forum will have a broader perspective.”

The O and M hasn’t lost a club since Benalla departed for the Goulburn Valley league at the end of the 1997 season.

Saints president Bill O’Donohue, who is standing down from the role, recently said the club needed to find an extra $100,000 to stay in the O and M.

The Saints haven’t played finals since playing off in back-to-back grand finals in 2005-06 which coincided with the demise of the local tobacco industry and robbed the club of an estimated $80,000 in annual income.