Lalor’s request to play in the Northern Football Netball League’s division 3 competition this season has been accepted, with Epping to step up and fill the void in division 2.

The Bloods requested to drop divisions two weeks ago, after an exodus of players left the club struggling to field what they believed would be a competitive side in division 2.

The NFNL board met on Tuesday night and accepted the Bloods request to play in division 3.

This is dependent on the Bloods having 45 registered players by midday on Friday. If the Bloods don’t meet the minimum number requirement by that date, the club will not compete in the NFNL’s senior and reserves competition this year.

NFNL chief executive Peter McDougall said the board had considered many options before coming to its determination.

“The decision to allow Lalor to move to division 3 is based on the long-term viability of the club,” McDougall said.

 “The Board deemed it paramount that Lalor be given the best chance to be able to field a side during this period of difficulty and moving to division 3 provides that opportunity.”

Bloods president Benjamin Charles said it hadn’t been an easy decision, but made with the long term interests of the club in mind.

He said the decision to drop divisions would allow the club to have a total rebuild.

“It’s only the beginning and a lot of hard work to go,” he said.

“Getting 45 players is one thing, be we also need to get committed members and sponsors on board as well.

“We’re still endeavouring to get as many players on board in the next two days.”

Charles said there had been a lot of support from not just in the league, but other clubs in different leagues.

He said since they announced they were looking to drop divisions, some new and old players had been in touch about helping out.

“The overwhelming response has been positivity,” he said.

“We’ve got a practice match on Thursday night and the committed 30 who have been here throughout the preseason will play in that.

“We thank Diamond Creek for changing their preseason around to help us.

“We’ve done everything we can. Hopefully we can get a flood of memberships and support and back up what we, the league and Epping have done.”

With the NFNL wanting the division 2 competition to remain at eight teams, to avoid a bye, the league offered division 3 clubs the option to take the Bloods’ place in division 2.

Epping was the only club to submit an expression of interest and was subsequently promoted into division 2.

Pingers coach Greg Whitcroft said the club was excited by the opportunity to step up to division 2.

“It’s a great opportunity for us and it will open a few doors off field, particularly around recruiting,” he said.

“At times it’s hard to attract and maintain players in division 3.

“Also we’ll be playing bigger clubs, so hopefully it will mean bigger crowds as well.

“It’s gives the chance to plan for the future and it’s a massive opportunity.”

Whitcroft is under no illusions of the challenge they have on field.

Even if the Pingers finish last in division 2 they won’t be relegated, with the league deciding the division 2 bottom side won’t be relegated come season’s end.

“We are a very young and light side,” he said.

“Through the year we will be tested at times and expect it will be a ripper challenge.

“It will be a learning curve and the players will be playing against former AFL and VFL players and they will learn a lot.

“They’ll take something out of every game, even if they don’t realise it.”