What do you make of a very proud and famous football club – one which is exceptionally well run and well resourced and with outstanding success at every level throughout its history – having to forfeit matches two weeks in a row?
I refer to Spotswood Football Club, who could not field a reserves team two weeks ago and an under-19 side last weekend.
The club has a massive injury list although, to be honest, it’s not the only club where numbers at senior and under-age levels are an issue and the drop-off in numbers is a definite worry.
The overall participation figures tell a different story but they are heavily weighted by the influx of female players at all age levels.
The fact that there are only 10 clubs with teams in the WRFL under-19 competition is not healthy, even given this is the first year of the age realignment.
We’re continually being told about the population growth in the western region but that isn’t being reflected in numbers playing sport in general, not just football.
The WRFL has 25 senior clubs but only 18 are involved in the under-17 competition, and a few of those – Williamstown Juniors, St Bernards, Point Cook and Werribee Centrals – don’t field teams in the WRFL senior leagues.
This means only 14 senior teams have under-17s, so where are the players of the future? This isn’t a problem exclusive to the WRFL …it’s happening everywhere.
There’s no doubt the elite will always be there because the rewards are so great, but let’s not forget that elite players need teammates.
WRFL-produced superstars like Callan Ward, Brad Johnson, Lachie Hunter and Bachar Houli needed 21 other blokes to help them achieve their sporting dreams.
The participants who play such a vital role in the formative years of AFL superstars seem to be overlooked and, from what I have seen, local clubs get to see very little, if any, of the big money that drives this football industry.
If clubs like Spotswood are struggling we have a problem that needs to be addressed.
The Woodsmen have a Presidents Lunch this Saturday featuring the very funny Marty Fields. The club will host Altona in a critical game for both sides. Contact Megan Smith 0411 608 602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deer Park has a five-year reunion for its 2011 premiership side when they play Wyndhamvale on August 6. Entry is free for all past players and officials.