Riddell option looms large for Kyneton FNC

    Tigers president Hayden Evans.

    Kyneton Football Netball Club’s future affiliation is very much up in the air. The Tigers could soon make a formal move to ‘jump ship’ from the Bendigo League and seek to join the Riddell District Football League in 2024.

    At an open public forum held at the Showgrounds on Friday night, a large majority vote of those present supported the Tigers going to the Riddell League – where their junior teams and women’s football team competed this season.

    The show of hands vote count revealed 33 in favour of leaving the Bendigo League and crossing to Riddell; six (or seven) were uncertain, and only two supported staying with Bendigo.

    Tigers’ president Hayden Evans chaired the meeting designed to obtain public feedback on what the AFL Central Vic Commission and the Bendigo League have suddenly been talking about.

    “It’s been a rough three weeks,” Evans said, assuring those present they would hear fact, not opinion.

    The club president, vice-president Travis Prendergast and treasurer David Yunghanns all provided detailed background on what has been taking place.

    Various eye-opening revelations emerged, with Evans stressing the importance of engaging with the community; the club needs to know at a time when it is planning for 2024 season, with coaches and players to be engaged.

    18 TEAMS BY 2025?

    The meeting was informed the Bendigo League could well become an 18-team two division competition by 2025, with the strong Rochester and Echuca clubs coming back, and plans to see Kyneton, Castlemaine and Maryborough in the second division.

    Kyneton last won the grand final in the BFNL in 1997; back in 2013 the club could not field a side; in 2018 the club was in substantial debt and could not pay players; by 2021 all clubs debts of around the $200,000 mark had been cleared. The club is sound financially, with the major raffle and sponsors making valuable support.

    The commission has been talking to clubs without the Bendigo League being present. On Friday night, the league was invited to attend the Kyneton meeting, but no one appeared.

    Initially the prospect of a new separate league and two divisions in the Bendigo League was aimed at next season, but has apparently been shunted back to 2025.

    Clubs have largely admitted that some changes have to happen, but there was criticism of the commission’s emphasis on football, with netball not being given a high profile.

    The meeting was told some of the likely propositions for change had never initially been discussed with the club, and media reports had resulted in considerable speculation.

    On Friday, Gisborne Football Netball Club strongly reaffirmed its willingness to remain in the Bendigo League; there had been rumours that Gisborne was looking at shifting to Ballarat.

    Yunghanns provided detailed information about Equalisation of the Bendigo competition dating back to 2015, and how it had failed to meet expectations.

    He provided population information (Castlemaine 10,340, Kyneton 7513, Maryborough 8160) from the 2021 Census, and went on to outline the player payments points system and the variations which have occurred in the BFNL.

    The meeting was provided with statistics on senior players’ turnover in football. Kyneton ‘lost’ eight senior players from the 2022 side for a variety of reasons.

    Statistical information on young players and their retention rate with the Tigers were also spelt out.

    Mr Prendergast said he was very proud of the club, emphasising it was much more than a football club; the fully funded FIDA team had changed participants’ lives.

    Several weeks ago Kyneton appeared to have four possible options: Stay with the BFNL, go to the Ballarat League, join Heathcote, or look at the adjacent Riddell League.

    Now, the club felt there were only two options – Bendigo or Riddell.

    Netball comparisons were made, with the Riddell League’s netball having grown much stronger in the past five years, and the independent umpires for the two top grades. There is also a points system for the top netball grade.

    A number of speakers emphasised the advantage of having all teams competing in the same league. The importance of good governance was also referred to.

    Retention/loss of young footballers was spelt out in some detail, with examples given of talent going to Trentham and some Riddell League clubs.

    Some felt being in the RDFNL may lead to more teenagers staying with Kyneton, rather than looking elsewhere.

    While Kyneton has a salary cap of $125,000, it is around $30,000 less in the Riddell League.

    One former coach revealed that over a 10-year period, Kyneton’s Under 18s lose four out of every five matches; at the same time, Gisborne win 74 per cent, and Sandhurst 87 per cent.

    Kyneton’s leadership did not have any information on what Castlemaine and Maryborough were doing, if anything, to enhance their future.

    Importantly, the meeting was assured the valued major sponsors would stay with the Tigers, irrespective of which league they competed in.


    Last Thursday night, the Tigers’ leaders met with Riddell League senior personnel at the Kyneton RSL.

    The Riddell League representatives were board president Brendan Knott, chief executive officer Jordan Doyle, and football operations manager Aaron McLean.

    The Kyneton meeting was told the Tigers would be accepted into the RDFNL next season. The deadline for an admission application is October 30.

    Kyneton would take the number of clubs in the RDFNL to 10, and Gisborne Giants are growing fast with under age netball and football sides.

    The final word from the floor came from Neil Organ, a life member and strong Tigers’ supporter for 65 years.

    He said he had always supported Kyneton being in the Bendigo League, but things had changed drastically.

    “It’s time we had a look at change,” Mr Organ said.

    The Express was told the Friday night meeting, and the vote favouring the Riddell League, was a strong talking point in Kyneton at the weekend.