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New era for footy

Friday, 2nd March, 2012

The city’s junior and senior football bodies will now work more closely than ever after the formation of a local AFL Board.

The creation of the board has resulted in some significant recommendations being made to AFL NSW, including a reduction in junior age groups, junior teams to play on the main ovals prior to the reserve grade on Saturday mornings, and the abolishment of Sunday football.

The board has also focused on the ability of the four local clubs to improve their match day income stream, and the introduction of a women’s competition.

AFL Community Football manager for Southern NSW, Paul Habel, said the process had been a “long haul” that involved extensive consultation with all levels of local football.

“The local Board members have been consulting widely with executives of the senior and junior bodies, they have met with the four club boards, held discussions with a number of Coaches, canvassed the thoughts of interested stakeholders and taken on board plenty of feedback,” he said.

One of the main tasks of the AFL Board was to conduct an audit of all junior players, and according to Mr Habel results showed healthy numbers up to and including the Under 14 grade.

However there was a significant decrease in playing numbers amongst older teens; a problem not unique to football according to Mr Habel.

“This is not a problem purely associated with our sport ... It seems to be  widespread that when teenagers hit the 15 to 16 year age group their interest wanders from sporting fields to other pursuits.

“Our challenge is to encourage some of them to stick with the game.”

As a result of this player audit and with the backing of the Junior Football Association and the four clubs, the age groups in 2012 will revert to Under 11, 13 and 15. This replaces the previous Under 10, 12, 14 and 16 system, and will see one grade drop out.

Junior game times and locations have also been changed under the football revamp, with the board moving to ensure football is less of an inconvenience for families.

As part of the restructure the Auskick and Under 11 teams will move to Jubilee Oval on a Friday afternoon and early evening slot, the Under 13’s will play on Saturday morning followed by the Under 15’s, and the junior draw will run parallel with the senior draw so junior and senior clubs are playing at the same ovals.

Junior Football Association Chairman, Scott Dunn, said the JFA had decided to back the changes after much consideration, and predicted they would be of benefit to the game.

“We studied the player numbers, we looked at every possible option and we canvassed parents and coaches and we came to the conclusion that for the future of junior football and for the sake of a healthy, vibrant competition the restructure is a positive step forward,” he said.

Mr Dunn said the decision to do away with Sunday football would almost certainly prove popular with families.

“Over the years many parents had to climb out of bed on a Saturday and Sunday morning in the middle of winter to take their kids to football, with the change to having junior football over by lunch time on the Saturday I am sure many parents will appreciate the Sunday sleep in.”

The larger Saturday program and increased crowds will also allow the clubs to run barbecues, raffles and other fundraisers during the junior matches.

“We see this as an important step in allowing local clubs to have the ability to increase their revenue stream,” Mr Habel said 

“The ball is in the clubs’ court, but the initial feedback is that they have welcomed this initiative from the AFL board.”    

Another promising innovation for 2012 the introduction of a women’s competition which will consist of a minor round season of nine games plus finals.

“We put a toe in the water last year and the response was amazing,” Mr Habel said.

“One of our board members Peter Nash has been driving the concept of women’s football in Broken Hill and he deserves credit for being so passionate and having the vision to pursue it.”

Each club has been supplied with a list of potential female players, and the South Club has already appointed a coach and has 27 players on their books. The women will play in three-week blocks on a Saturday morning.

Ensuring that junior, senior and women’s football can all coexist is no small task, and Broken Hill Football League chairman, Glenn Williams, said all parties had been working hard to formulate a draw which caters to all leagues.

“As you can imagine with the seniors playing 18 minor rounds and the juniors less, our management team has been burning the candle with their colleagues from the JFA to come up with a smooth balanced draw,” said Mr Williams.

Mr Williams added that having a full day of football on a Saturday will add a carnival atmosphere to the game and may entice more people to attend.

“You can just imagine going the Jube, Alma or Memorial Oval on a Saturday and watching games from Under 13’s through to A grade, it is going to attract families and perhaps people who may not normally follow the junior or senior competition.”

While the AFL Board’s charter is to implement and work on the direction of football in Broken Hill, the two bodies of the BHFL and JFA will still act under the banner of competition management committees. Their main role will be the day to day running of the competition.

“I look forward to working closely with Scott Dunn and his team,” Mr Williams said.  

“We are a four team competition in a remote community, we are all here for the betterment of the game and anything we can do to foster the sport and help grow it will only benefit the Broken Hill community.”

The Lightning Cup pre-season competition will begin on Saturday March 31, with the regular senior competition starting on April 14.

The Auskick grades (Under 7, 9 and 11) will start on April 20, while the Under 13 and 15 grades will play their first games on April 21.

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