Warning for country AFL, korfball clubs about player exemptions via new PlayHQ system across the state

Echuca Football and Netball Club will appeal after the club was found guilty of drafting ineligible players into the senior and reserve squad in the first round against Rochester this month.

The club was stripped of its winning points and was fined as a result.

Club president Ashley Byrne said problems with a new state-wide administrative system led club leaders to believe there were no issues with player authorizations.

Byrne said he was in disbelief at the severity of the penalties as the error itself was reported to the league and clubs still struggled with the new system dubbed PlayHQ, which was introduced at the start of this season.

“It was an honest mistake,” he said.

State-wide system changes

Both players were registered, but without the club’s knowledge at the time, their permission to play had not come through.

“It’s a different system than it was before. If a player comes back as registered, the approval would have expired automatically in the past,” Byrne said.

“Both guys had come forward registered… not sure if there was any assumption the approval had gone through [because of how it previously worked] but it was overlooked.

“We were immediately on the forefront and told the league that it had happened.”

He said clubs were still trying to navigate the system and learn how to use it and warned the problem could cost other country clubs.

“Part of our self-report was that we wanted to try and help other clubs to be aware of the situation so they wouldn’t have any problems,” Byrne said.

“I think there are a lot of administrators in the country of Victoria who are using this system at the moment and… there would be other faults around,” he said.

Fear of volunteers

Soccer and netball clubs across the state have been struggling with volunteer shortages for some time, and Mr Byrne said the complexity of the new system could cause them to lose even more.

He said that even the most experienced administrators spent several hours a day on the new system.

“There would be people who would take the pin out of administration based on the severity of the punishment Echuca received because they don’t want their clubs to be in the same boat.”

Mr Byrne said that with both teams winning their respective matches against Rochester, he believes the players in question would have no impact on the results.

“Both guys are young guys who came to Echuca this year to play a higher level of footy. They’re not from… the VFL or anything like that,” he said.

“We hope [the commission] will look at us with a little leniency and change [the decision]†

AFL Goulburn Murray was contacted for comment.

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