WITH the country footy season underway, the jury is still out on what the best management plan is to deal with paid players in country football.
With many associations and clubs battling the issues of lack of population and the increasing size of farming operations, most country clubs are paying for players to come from Perth to help field a team.
In many associations throughout the State, the teams with the bigger budget have often been able to buy sustained success while other clubs who don't have the monetary power struggle to get 18 a side.
So how can associations help balance the league and move away from having a 'big two or three' teams that just dominate the competition while others just make up the numbers?
The possible answer - a Player Points System (PPS).
The PPS values each player according to the highest level of football the players have played.
The possible points system allocation key - as outlined in the WAFC Country Football Remuneration Discussion Paper - says a player who has played AFL could be valued at six points, while a WAFL player four points, a community footballer one point and a junior footballer who has played for the club at zero points.
In football circles, the points system has been a constant talking point, particularly in the Central Midlands Coastal Football League (CMCFL) where Cervantes has won 12 of the last 14 premierships.
CMCFL chairperson Norm McPherson said the point system was all about evening the competition.
"We just wanted to make our league more competitive and give the lower ranked teams a better opportunity to perform against the highly ranked teams and those teams which were able to import those higher ranked players," Mr McPherson said.
"I think so far, we are just one game in, but it seems the lower ranked teams have recruited very well and I believe the points system has contributed to that because they (clubs) feel as though they have a chance of being competitive against the top sides."
He said the PPS has no bearing on player payments but restricts the number of quality players a team can have in its side.
He said another big reason for the introduction of the PPS was to try and improve crowd numbers.
"There has been a perception in our league that it has been dominated by certain sides," he said.
"If it is a foregone conclusion people just want an even game to go to.
"We have only played one game under the new system but that is what we hope (to get more people through the gates)."
Mr McPherson believes a number of associations were already looking at the PPS to be introduced into their leagues over the next few years.
"A lot of leagues are looking at us to see how it goes," he said.
"Already other clubs are more enthusiastic about the season and they think they have a chance of doing well and competing with the higher profile clubs."
South West Football League (SWFL), which is traditionally a high paying league, has also introduced the PPS for the next two seasons as a way of evening up the competition.
SWFL president Kevin Lynn said the league had decided to trial the PPS to see if it could find a system which was going to be fair, equitable and workable to the point where it would be simplistically easy to manage.
"You can have all sorts of rules but unless you can manage them it is difficult to put into practice," Mr Lynn said.
"Every player in the league is given points depending on the highest level of football he has played.
"Starting with one point a junior and if he plays AFL but comes back and plays for his club of origin then he is still 1 and there is also a loyalty clause so that every year you keep coming back you lose 1 point.
"The PPS is promoting loyalty - each club has 40 points in season one and that will be reviewed at the end of the year."
He said a number of clubs would have to rethink their recruiting strategy so they didn't breach the points cap.
He said one of the biggest issues in bringing in the PPS was trying to get the successful sides to vote it in.
Mr Lynn said the vote to bring in the PPS was not unanimous but there was a clear majority.
"It is very hard to get clubs that have been winning on side," he said.
Goldfields Football League (GFL) president Phil Worthington said the league was having a similar issue in trying to get a system introduced which all clubs were happy with.
"We are looking at a couple of models," Mr Worthington said.
"I think when you are looking at introducing something like this (the PPS) you need to find a model which is going to have all clubs on side.
"It is definitely something we are looking at and if it is not something we do next year then it will certainly be something we do the following year.
"We will probably up the ante with it a bit next year and then hopefully have something in place by 2014.
"Some years the player payments are really out of control and other years it is not too bad, it really does vary, and it depends on what types of players are out there and available as well.
"We probably need to look at some sort of uniformity as to what players are worth but then also looking at bringing in a points system as well to help clubs out."
GFL has also announced it will not be sending a Country Week team this year, but Mr Worthington said it had nothing to do with paid players.
Another association which will certainly be participating in the Country Week carnival will be the Ongerup Football Association (OFA), who won B-section last year and will compete in the A-Section this year.
OFA president Kim Parsons said the PPS would not have an impact on their league because they don't have many paid players.
"We don't have many paid players in our league, so it doesn't really affect us that much," M Parsons said.
"All clubs are finding it hard to keep players, especially with the mining industry, and we are back to seven teams this year with Nyabing bringing back a side, but I think we will struggle in our reserves competitions. We are only looking at about four clubs actually having reserves sides.
"We are not going to try a points system, our biggest problem is just trying to get numbers."
WA Country Football League (WACFL) operations manager and author of the discussion paper, Joe Georgiades said it was unlikely the WACFL would introduce the PPS into all leagues as many competitions, particularly in the north of the State, didn't have paid players.
"It is a template for leagues that think there is a problem with either the amount of money which is getting paid to players or the evenness of the competition because of the number of paid players, it is a template which they can look at implementing to try and counteract that," Mr Georgiades said.
"It is all about making the competition as even as possible and also reducing, if we can, the amount of money which is getting paid out.
"A lot of these communities don't have the money to be paying players.
"What we want to do is encourage leagues, who think they have an issue, to read the paper and use whatever they can take out of it."
p To view the discussion paper head to http://www.wafootball.com.au/coun try-football/downloads and download the WACFL Remuneration Discussion Paper.