Newcastle City will take its fight against a recruitment ban to the Black Diamond AFL's board meeting this week and has not ruled out legal action.
The Herald reported in November that the Blues were unhappy with BDAFL limits on who they and Terrigal-Avoca can recruit in 2017.
The Blues and Panthers have won the past nine grand finals, and the last time they did not finish first and second on the table was in 2010.
Under the new rules, City and Terrigal can sign players who have not played Australian rules before, bring back former players, or promote their juniors.
City coach Mitchell Knight has lost at least six of his 2016 premiership team, including leading goalkicker Mitch Crawford, ruckman Chris Jackson, veteran Josh Wheeler and on-baller Matt Bailey, and has not been able to replace them.
Club president Daniel Gardner told the Herald at Sunday’s BDAFL season launch that the Blues were prepared to talk to the league about ways to even the competition but did not believe a selective ban on recruitment was the right solution.
He said the club could be prepared to mount legal action if the ban stayed in place.
“There’s avenues we can take. We’re exploring those avenues,” he said. “Hopefully on Wednesday night we’ll be able to come to a conclusion or discussion that will be of benefit to everybody. At the moment we just want to be talking on Wednesday night before we move forward with anything else.”
Gardner said a player-points system like those introduced in Hunter rugby union, rugby league and soccer could be the answer.
“We’ve done a fair bit of research in ways that other people have tried to equalise competitions, and we haven’t seen this [recruiting ban] model used before.
“We’re more than happy to work with the board on what’s going to be the best model. A player-points system, we feel, is the best model and is not going to be as detrimental to clubs who can have the heart torn out of what they’ve done.”
BDAFL football operations coordinator Garry Burkinshaw said Terrigal had accepted the ban but City was resisting it.
He understood City’s “disappointment” but said a player-points system in the BDAFL could force clubs to shed players, whereas the recruitment ban would allow clubs to keep all their existing players.
“We want an even competition,” he said. “At the moment we have four sides who realistically haven’t been playing with a chance to win the competition for effectively eight years.
“Hopefully the new players who come to town will end up playing for other clubs, because the last four or five years all the new players who have come to the Central Coast or Newcastle have gone to either Terrigal-Avoca or Newcastle City.”
He said some of the weaker clubs had already resigned players who had stopped playing in the past out of frustration.
The new season starts on April 1.