TALLANGATTA and District league coaches and officials have hit back at claims that Sandy Creek should be stripped of hosting finals.
In a debate which has been simmering for the past 12 months and split clubs 7-4 in a delegates vote earlier this year, Rutherglen coach Mark Sarau reignited the issue by claiming finals should be played in Albury or Wodonga due to the substandard condition of the ground.
But his comments received little support yesterday with Mitta United coach Nic Conway, former Kiewa-Sandy Creek premiership coach Simon Bone and Wahgunyah coach Andrew Robertson rejecting the move.
League general manager Ken Barnes also said the competition was happy with Sandy Creek’s ground and facilities and played down the prospect of a switch.
Bone, who led the Hawks to their last flag in 2008, was the most vocal.
“In the last four years we wouldn’t have had a game where the whole ground wasn’t surrounded by cars and the people involved are very passionate about it,” Bone said.
“That’s what these country communities are about.
“Mark seems like a good bloke and everyone has an opinion, but I’m pretty sure he was involved at Frankston and places like that and there is a big difference between that country football and our country football.
“Maybe Parker’s Pies put in a lot of money at Rutherglen and good luck to them, but places like Kiewa and Mitta need the money that comes in through finals to keep going.
“It’s still an oval, it still has grass on it and the other six or seven coaches in the league who missed out on finals would love to be in Rutherglen’s position this weekend.”
The TDFL agreed to explore the move of shifting the grand final earlier this year and follow the lead of neighbouring district league, the Ovens and King, which moved its biggest day of the season to Norm Minns Oval from Tarrawingee.
Conway said he would disappointed to see the finals leave Sandy Creek.
“I personally love it,” Conway said.
“I was lucky enough to play at Birallee Park for a long time and other beautiful grounds in the Ovens and Murray, but the atmosphere at Sandy Creek is as good as you get.
“If you moved the game to Wodonga it would change the culture and demographics of the crowd too much and I would hate to see that happen.
“I guess that’s why you call it country football.”
Robertson echoed his comments.
“In my own personal opinion and not the opinion of Wahgunyah Football Club I support the finals remaining at Sandy Creek,” Robertson said.
“I’m a bit of a traditionalist as well and it is a neutral ground.
“I was part of Culcairn’s 1990 premiership at the ground and it’s got a unique atmosphere and would love to win another flag there before I hang up the boots in the not too distant future.
“It’s a country league and should be played in the country.”
Barnes said he had no complaints with the ground that has hosted the majority of TDFL finals matches since 1945.
“Mark’s got his opinions and he’s entitled to that, but livestock isn’t given access to the playing arena.
“We’re happy with the surface ... I imagine it will come up a treat after the rain we’ve had.
“You can always improve on all facilities and we’ve got a work team down there at the moment working on the toilets.”
Sandy Creek is only used at finals time and is regarded as the geographic centre of the TDFL, but the recent addition of Chiltern, Rutherglen and Wahgunyah has put pressure on the league to consider a switch of venue.