The list of Victorian regional or country leagues which have either merged or disbanded altogether in recent decades makes interesting reading, if a little disconcerting.
Here they are in chronological order. 2020s: Alberton. 2010s: Lexton Plains, Mallee, Riviera.
1990s: Ararat and District, Bass Valley/Wonthaggi District, Heytesbury, Mid-Murray.
Mount Noorat, Northern and Echuca, Northern Mallee, South-West Gippsland, Southern Mallee, Tungamah and Western Plains.
1980s: Echuca FL, Golden City, Mornington Peninsula, Nepean, Northern District and West Wimmera.
Naturally my special interest centres on the old Bendigo region-based Golden City FL. Kangaroo Flat is the only former club still up and running in the major Bendigo FNL with Northern United hitting the wall in the early Nineties. And not long before that came their four, consecutive flags in the mid to late 1980s.
YCW has merged with Maiden Gully and plays in the Loddon Valley, along with Marong. North Bendigo, Huntly and White Hills contest the Heathcote District Football and Netball League, while Lockington-Bamawm United is also a member HDFNL club after a brief 1990s sojourn as just Lockington in the BFNL.
Returning to Huntly there’s been some discussion that although they now wear Hawthorn colours the Hawks had back-affiliation with Provincial. The Pros were a member club of the old GCFL, used the Weeroona Oval as their home ground and wore blue and gold vertical stripes as their colours.
But prominent country footy historians such as Paul Daffey and Dr Rod Gillett think – like me – this Provincial-Huntly link is very tenuous, if not incorrect.
The only other long-gone league close to home I could find was the old Lexton Plains FL and the clubs belonging to it. The LPFL lasted only a very short time: from 1999 to 2010, 12 seasons in all.
So where did its 12 clubs go?
Of that total, five are still playing in the central Victorian region. They’re Avoca, Dunolly, Lexton, Natte-Bealiba and Navarre.
Avoca with a proud history stretching back to 1873 left the LPFL at the end of the 2004 season and joined the Maryborough Castlemaine DFL. The Dunolly Eagles joined their near-neighbour Avoca Bulldogs in the MCDFL but not before they had a stint in the Loddon Valley. Dunolly had only two seasons in Lexton Plains – 1999 and 2000 – before they upped and headed to the LVFL. They’re now part of the MCDFL along with the Lexton Tigers (founded 1920) which had been a member club of Lexton Plains right through the league’s brief history.
Two other current MCDFL clubs contested the whole 12 seasons in the Lexton Plains before seeking affiliation with the Maryborough-based district league. They are Natte-Bealiba (the Swans) and Navarre (the Grasshoppers) and both have since made their mark in the MCDFL. Navarre is the older club. The Grasshoppers started up in 1911 while the Swans came some four decades later: in 1952.
When they transferred to the MCDFL Natte-Bealiba won the flag in 2011 while Navarre is the reigning champion having saluted in the most recent season – 2019 – as well as four-in-a-row from 2013 to 2016 inclusive.