AFL Wimmera-Mallee aims to increase junior numbers

One of the suggestions was to remove junior league awards.
One of the suggestions was to remove junior league awards.

Maintaining junior participation was one of the main focuses of AFL Wimmera-Mallee’s draft review recommendations.

AFL Wimmera-Mallee development manager Jason Muldoon said keeping junior players was vital for any club’s long-term survival. 

Mr Muldoon recommended leagues remove league-wide awards such as the best and fairest, top goal-kicker and match-day best on ground awards. 

“We need to keep juniors in the game by making sure they are having fun,” he said.

“Let’s develop the best players in three areas around the ground, let’s not just put them in the middle so they can go and win the league best and fairest.

“This would take the pressure away from the junior coach. We don’t want the coach to worry about that. I welcome feedback on this – it changes the way we have thought about football for years.”

The review also focused on the issue of juniors playing up a grade. The draft review recommends limiting only top-age under-17s to play in the reserves and decreasing the allowable games played by a junior participant to 24 per season, not including finals. 

The review also suggests clubs play a game even if a team only has less than 12 available players, with an AFLX style of game possible at reserves and underage levels. 

While the current senior football structure would not be changed under the draft review, the report does recommend changing the number of on-field players in reserves and underage football to 16 with four on the interchange. 

The commission also released a junior coaches policy, which under the draft recommendation would have to be enacted by clubs. The policy centres around ensuring children are enjoying football and coaches are not putting too much pressure on young players.

“I’m sure a lot of people in the room want their teams to win, but that’s not the most important thing for the kids playing the game,” Mr Muldoon said.

“I am of another generation. The world we grew up in is totally different to the world these kids are growing up in.

“Sport is not the most important thing to them. With people dropping out of sport we need to change the way we think and how we deliver the program.”