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Even up the competition

Friday, 31st January, 2014

West coach Colin Tonkin and player Jessica Ray are not impressed by the uneveness of the women’s league and are desperately on the hunt for more numbers. West coach Colin Tonkin and player Jessica Ray are not impressed by the uneveness of the women’s league and are desperately on the hunt for more numbers.

By Ethan James

The West women’s footy side are appealing to AFL Broken Hill to change their interchange rule to help to even out the competition. 

Members of the club’s playing group told the BDT that the popularity of some teams has resulted in a lopsided competition.

“We haven’t brought up anything official with the league yet, but we’re hoping that this will get the ball rolling,” coach Colin Tonkin said. 

“If we can’t get a full team on the field, then it really isn’t fair on the girls.”

The women’s league adopted a 25-player interchange rule when the competition began in 2012 with the goal of enticing as many participants as possible. 

But West’s Jessica Ray said that the size of some squads means that teams dominate on the back of sheer numbers.

“We struggled to fill a team last year and in some instances we had a team of 14 coming up against squads of like 28 where they just kept running on fresh legs,” she said. 

“We did lose a few players who were either injured or left town but it’s not fun when the game is that lopsided ... the league should be doing a bit about it.”

AFL Broken Hill Chairman Peter Nash said the rule was originally put in place to encourage as many women as possible to play the game.

“The women’s interchange is capped at 25 whereas the men have 22, so there really isn’t much difference in that regard,” he said. 

West claim that there were situations where teams had uneven numbers on the field, although Nash said that was unlikely to be the case.

“We have a rule that the teams must play with equal numbers on the field, so I hope that that wouldn’t be the case,” he said. 

“(The popularity of teams) tends to be cyclical with people coming and going in town and from jobs.

“The league has intervened in the past - in the Under 15s last year we relaxed the rules a bit to allow some boys who had turned 16 to play.

“But there comes a point where clubs need to be proactive in recruitment.”

West failed to win a game in 2013, finishing last on the ladder.

They kicked 33 points across the 15-game season and were held scoreless in ten matches.

Their biggest loss was 132-nil at the hands of eventual premiers Central in Round 14.

Ray said while members from other teams had approached her about switching clubs to balance the numbers most had failed to follow through.

West start their pre-season next week and Tonkin, who is in his first year as coach of the women’s side, said that anyone interested is more than welcome to come along.

“Whether you’ve played before or not it doesn’t matter ... we can train you up,” he said.

“There’s no pressure, there are a lot who are new to the game here.”

West are holding a player barbecue on Sunday from 11am at the club’s headquarters.

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