AFL Wide Bay disappointed at Gympie's departure
AUSSIE RULES: They came, they conquered, and now the Gympie Cats are gone.
AFL Queensland confirmed yesterday the Cats, who won the AFL Wide Bay flag with a 31-point win against Hervey Bay Bombers in this year's grand final, will move to the QAFL Division 3 competition for the 2019 season.
The Cats were granted a provisional license for the 2020 season last month, but the move will be brought forward by 12 months.
AFL Queensland's state football operations manager Barry Gibson said it was a positive move for the QAFL competitions, which will now feature 10 teams in the top three divisions, but it is a bitter body blow for the AFL Wide Bay.
The governing body of the local competition had reached an advanced stage of its draft draw, but that will now have to be redone in line with the reduction to a five-team format.
Clubs are expected to play each other four times with a bye scheduled each week.
AFL Wide Bay president Anthony Stothard said the governing body was disappointed in the decision but there was nothing they could do.
"We expected them to be in the competition next year, we received an email three weeks ago saying they would be," Stothard said. "We had the draw done but it's come back that they can move early.
Gympie president Jason Bromilow justified the move due to its player base, of which 55 per cent are based south of the Gold City.
"If we want to be successful as a club we have to move south," Bromilow said. "More than half of our players come from south of Gympie, so the move makes sense."
Bromilow said the club met with AFL Queensland and had to show they could satisfy a specific criteria which included lifting behavioural standards.
"We had to show that we could put sanctions in place for players and spectators to not misbehave. Individuals can be handed penalties," he said.
"The Brisbane comp is serious, tougher, faster and harder. So we have to show that we are a professional club.
"With more people watching the games, we have to make sure we play football in the good spirit and have some fun."