Representatives from the Spencer Gulf Football League (SGL) have been left disappointed after the annual June long weekend clash against the Whyalla Football League (WFL) was called off.
WFL cancelled the traditional combined match after being unable to appoint a coach.
This year’s clash was set to be held at Port Oval in Port Pirie on June 15.
WFL President Jack Velthuizen was apologetic about the regrettable outcome.
“It absolutely is disappointing. We, the executives from the WFL, really tried,” Mr Velthuizen said.
“It’s a real genuine lack of interest from the players and coaches.
“I can’t force anybody … you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.”
SGL had asserted its dominance in the inter-city showdown over recent years, thrashing WFL by 179 points in Whyalla in 2017.
The Pirie and Augusta combined side scored five wins in a row from 2010 to 2014, before WFL triumphed in 2015, only for the SGL to reclaim the crown in 2016 with a narrow 11-point victory.
The WFL board decided recent performances were not good enough and held a meeting as early as October 2017 in hopes of refuelling interest in the annual match.
But after hosting a number of meetings spanning over six months, Mr Velthuizen said the WFL had no choice but to withdraw from the match after hearing “a million excuses” from local club representatives.
Mr Velthuizen speculated on the reason behind the lack of interest shown from WFL coaches and players.
“Last year allegedly there were claims that some of the coaches had stopped their better players from volunteering for the combined side in case they got injured. But I’ve got no proof of that,” he said.
“They filled the team with under 18s and even one or two under 14s last year, so that just shows the lack of interest from the players’ part.”
While WFL were still keen to go ahead with the under 15 and under 18 matches, the SGL decided to cancel the event in its entirety as it was no longer financially viable without the gate takings from the senior game.
SGL President Les Promnitz said the outcome was disappointing, but something the SGL had “no control over”.
Mr Promnitz is unsure what the future holds for the inter-city match, with WFL planning to host its 100-year anniversary celebrations on the June long weekend in 2019.
“We need to get some sort of assurance that it is going to go ahead, otherwise we’re going to have to be looking elsewhere,” he said. “We don’t want to go without an inter-association match in the long term.”
With no combined football to be played in 2018, the SGL has already began planning for next year, reportedly holding discussions with organisers of the mid-north Landmark Cup competition, as well as AFL Broken Hill.
But Mr Promnitz said the SGL is keeping its options open.
“It could be anyone. We’ll play anyone. Whoever we can,” he said.