The Mirror News

Critical shortage of junior footballers

WHERE have all the junior footballers gone?

Local football clubs are having enormous problems trying to field under 18s and under 16s in the Alberton Football Netball League for the coming season.

It is looking more likely that some clubs will be only fielding one junior side each week.

Foster have sent out a letter to their junior families asking the question – do they play one team of under 18s with 17-20 players, or one team of under 16s with 14 players?

As it stands now they do not have enough players to field two junior teams. They are asking for support and assistance to recruit more junior players as their junior football department and junior coaches have exhausted their network in trying to source players.

The club’s preference is to field an under 18 team, as long as everyone who wants to play gets a game.

DWWWW president Doug Kay told The Mirror that they won’t be having thirds this season, but will have fourths.

“If the age groups stayed the same as last year, 18s and 15s, we would have been able to field two sides,” he said.

Numbers for their senior teams is looking really good he concluded.

Toora has decided to only field a thirds team with not enough young players to play fourths.  Their bottom age fourths players will still get a game with Stingrays on a Sunday, said joint president Craig Jenkins.

Both MDU and Stony Creek will field both thirds and fourths, but really only have about 15 players for both of their teams. They are hoping to entice a few players out of Leongatha who miss out on a game there to boost their numbers.

Fish Creek have about 25 fourths players to choose from but will be short of thirds players only having 12 to 16 players. They will need some boys to play two games each week to make up the numbers.

Tarwin co-president Anthony Hullick told The Mirror on Monday that Tarwin are really struggling for juniors. There is a lot of work being done to try and field two junior sides, but it is not looking good for an under 18 side at present.

We have about six fourths so maybe we can try and get up an under 16s team before the season starts at Easter.

We have lost 5-6 junior players to Leongatha which hasn’t helped our numbers.

AFNL President Barry Stride told The Mirror on Friday that no clubs had officially contacted the league to say they were having troubles fielding sides.

He did say he knew that populations in some towns were dwindling which made it harder for the smaller clubs to field sides and it was a great concern to everyone.

“There are equal number rules in place to help out, but sooner or later the players who have to play two games each week get sick and tired of football and you could lose them altogether.

Barry said the league has a special general meeting coming up soon where he would find out for sure how all clubs were going. If it’s true and they are having trouble fielding teams, he would be asking AFL Gippsland what they will do to help the situation.”

If there are any young budding footballers out there who would like to start playing with any of the local clubs, just turn up, or contact someone, you will be made most welcome.

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