Nothing off the table as AFL Wimmera-Mallee looks at junior competion equity

A CAP on the number of players in junior football squads is one of several considerations of the AFL Wimmera-Mallee’s future directions review.

It comes as new rules capping the number of players in junior Hampden and the Warrnambool and District league squads to 26 players received a negative response last week.

The 11 Hampden league clubs were united in a letter to the AFL Western District which opposed the new rules while the Warrnambool and District clubs reacted with vocal opposition or silence.

AFL Wimmera-Mallee commissioner Bruce Petering said the option had not been directly discussed as part of the overall review into the sustainability of football.

“I’ve said all the way through that nothing is off the table and everything is open for discussion,” he said.

“In a previous process that we went through we did have a recommendation that was a cap of 28 players per squad so we have spoken about it.

“It is one of the mechanism to try and equalise the playing field or redistribute numbers; as off right its not a recommendation but it certainly be part of discussions.”

Inequity in the junior competitions across both the Wimmera and Horsham District leagues has been a big focus of the discussion Petering has had as part the review.

He said the commission wanted to sustain clubs as best as it could.

I’ve said all the way through that nothing is off the table and everything is open for discussion.

Bruce Petering

“Sheer numbers is a huge issue and we see that low junior numbers impact on a club’s sustainability,” he said. 

“We just want to maintain kids playing football and give every opportunity to everyone that we can.”

He said the argument that children will be lost from football because of a cap was a poorly considered.

“If you look at netball, even in this region, there are a number of clubs that have tryouts and if you don’t make it you go and find another club,” he said.

“My argument would be, ‘what is stopping that from being done in football as well if it’s for the good of the game?’ 

“That’s something that has to be proven before any recommendation would come about.”

Petering said capping the number of juniors at a club had proven to be successful in Ballarat.

“We aren’t sure whether that is suitable to our circumstances and environment at this point,” he said.

“As of now it is just a discussion point within the review.”