A LACK of teenage footballers at a majority of Warrnambool and District league clubs is set to force organisers to make the under 17s a 16-player per side competition.
Nanjing Night Net

The Warrnambool and District Football Netball league executive will tomorrow night meet to discuss a recommendation the under 17s be reduced from an 18-a-side competition for this season only.

It comes just four months after the league’s request to increase the age limit to under 17-and-a-half was rejected by the Victorian Country Football League.

WDFNL junior development liaison manager Carey Hackett yesterday revealed seven clubs had between 14 and 17 players on their lists, six days before East Warrnambool and Deakin University kick off the season this Sunday.

He said only five clubs had enough players.

“And some of those only just had full lists,” he said.

Traditionally strong under 17 clubs like Merrivale and Russells Creek are among those battling for players with the Tigers last week taking the step of advertising for more. With the prospect of teenagers being promoted to seniors, not to mention injuries and unavailabilities through the season, the shortage would only grow.

The league executive is keen to gauge opinions from clubs before tomorrow night’s specially convened meeting.

The recommendation from Hackett to the executive comes after it adopted an overage policy late last year which allowed clubs to have five players on their list aged over 17 but under 17-and-a-half.

Hackett said he had spoken with all clubs last week and had unanimous backing for the 16-a-side competition.

“They are all happy with that recommendation,” Hackett said.

“Some have said it will be a godsend. It will take pressure off the under 14s and take pressure off coaches and presidents.”

He said a “breeding gap” must exist for so many clubs to be struggling for players while numbers were strong in the under 12 and under 14 age groups.

Hackett said his recommendation was aimed at creating a level playing field for all sides and protect under 14s from being pushed up to the older age group too soon.

He said clubs would still be permitted to play 18-a-side games if both teams had sufficient players or if one was prepared to loan players to its opponent.

President Justin Balmer said he was frustrated the league had tried to address the problem last year when it applied to the Victorian Country Football League wanting to increase the age group to under 17-and-a-half.

“We had concerns and we went to the VCFL about this problem early, they rejected our proposal and now it (the problem) has occurred.

“We were trying to be pro-active about the problem and the VCFL didn’t grant our request.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.