Despite concerns, new finals structure has been a winner

By Jamie Lowe

There has been a lot of discussion over the Picola & District League finals structure for 2019.

The league decided before the season to run its finals over five weeks, compared to the usual four-week structure 

While remaining in the traditional top eight format, the league’s amendments saw the first round of finals split across the two weekends.

Elimination finals were played on the first weekend of finals, before the top four met in qualifying finals the following weekend.

The traditional finals configuration played out from there, with this weekend just past seeing the preliminary finals played as we near an end to a finals series that I believe has been a massive success.

Let's start on what some would see as a negative, with the winner of the elimination finals being rewarded with a week off, while the loser of the qualifying final was forced to play back-to-back weeks despite finishing in the top four.

Some may see that it has affected the finals, with both elimination final winners in Deni Rovers and Rennie defeating their opponents in the semi finals.

However, I believe this structure is the best option, because why wouldn't you reward a winning team rather than a team that has lost? Besides, some teams lose a bit of momentum when having a week off.

Berrigan have suffered a loss after each of their byes during the 2019 season, so there's no evidence that they would have benefited from having a week off before playing the Rovers.

Also, the teams who did play in qualifying finals were given a week off before they played their first final, so where is the issue?

Now, on to the biggest success of the finals structure, being only one round of finals held on the one day. This allowed club members, supporters and players to comfortably cheer on their teams in finals.

Last year's finals structure saw two qualifying finals played on one day and two elimination finals being played on another day.

This presented a logistical nightmare for supporters, and parents in particular, especiallyh if they had one of their children playing in Picola, for instance, while the other had their finals game in Waaia.

While I'm not a parent, I could only imagine just how tough it would be to explain to your child, "I'd love to come and watch you play in a final but your brother is playing somewhere else, and I can't be in two places at the one time".

Thankfully the PDFNL resolved this issue with the new finals structure.

It also has been a big positive for the talented young players who play in more than one grade of football or netball. A prime example is Deni Rovers junior Ray Murphy, who plays each week in both the thirds and seniors.

Instead of having to choose which game to play, he was able to play in both grades in the elimination final round.

The PDFNL's administration also had an easier task this year when organising umpires and officials.

If you think about it, there are seven grades of netball that need two umpires for each game. That means that 14 umpires are needed at one finals venue, so if you have two finals on, that adds up to 28 umpires being needed each day.

With two days of finals it brings the grand total to 56 umpires just to cover the weekend's netball.

Another positive comes with the gate takings for the league and the income for all clubs hosting a final.

Clubs have seen substantial increases in the number of supporters for each day of finals with the league already about $10,000 on gate takings for this year's finals.

Footy and netball are the lifeblood of many country towns, and the extra food and drink sales from bigger crowds are a massive help to all clubs.

I believe the PDFNL has paved the way for other league's to follow a similar structure, with the five-week fixture much more suited to country footy and netball.