WIMMERA Football League is beefing up its interleague program as it looks to climb up the Worksafe Country Championships rankings.
The league has identified the championships as one of the most important aspects of its operation, ranking only behind its finals series.
It is focused on improving the professionalism of the ‘Big W’ interleague side in a bid to move up the rankings and attract higher-quality players to the league.
Key to the Wimmera league’s plan to boost the side is the formation of a development squad, which will target talented players leaving the junior ranks.
The senior and under-18 sides have re-appointed this year’s coaches, Louie Dalziel and Brendan Bryan respectively, for next year.
The coaching panels for both sides will be expanded, with Dalziel and Bryan set to appoint line coaches and a football manager.
"It’s going to do wonders for them in their club football as well and that’s what we’re all about – raising the standard of our football.''
WFL interleague commissioner Trevor Albrecht said each member of this year’s interleague squad and some other potential representative players identified by the league had already been put in a squad for next year.
“We’re well aware there will be ins and outs between now and next year with people leaving in the off-season, but we’ve put a structure in place now so that we can add to and take from that list,” he said.
“There will be no training in the off-season, but we will send letters out to each member of the squad just so it’s set and ready to go when next season starts.”
Mr Albrecht said each member of the development squad would also receive letters.
“A lot of the outgoing under-18s from this year will go into the development squad to progress through the next few years,” he said.
“The development squad is a very important part of what we’re doing because it will develop those players when they’re able to train with guys at the highest level for six weeks.
"It’s going to do wonders for them in their club football as well and that’s what we’re all about – raising the standard of our football whether it is interleague or home and away.”
The Wimmera league was ranked 17th out of 32 teams in the Country Championship rankings this year, but will improve after beating North Central Football League.
Mr Albrecht said the league had the potential to be ranked much higher than it was.
He said Mallee Football League, which had rapidly climbed the rankings with strong interleague play and boasted several former AFL players, was a good example of how interleague could be used to attract top recruits.
“Mallee has done a very good job with the direction it has pushed its interleague, and we believe we should be ranked a lot better than where we are,” he said.
“When you’re talking to players from Ballarat, Melbourne or Bendigo, the worst thing they can say is ‘what is the Wimmera league?’
“If we’re ranked high and we’ve just knocked off a good opponent, they’ll think it’s more worthwhile considering, especially if we’re running a professional structure with our interleague.
“We believe some other leagues might be understating the importance of interleague, but we take it very seriously.”