A new AFL Wimmera-Mallee group has formed to help steer football and netball toward a bright future.
The AFLWM Advisory Committee is a new board consisting of seven highly-regarded sportspeople from across the region.
Grant Kuchel (chair), Colin Thompson, Megan Shea, Shayne Breuer, Cameron Pickering, Nathan Neumann and Trevor Albrecht have joined on, with AFL Wimmera-Mallee area manager Jason Muldoon also involved as a non-voting secretary.
The new board will provide leadership in the region, with its immediate priority being the stability of clubs and sport after a tumultuous 2020.
Chairman Grant Kuchel said it was a big positive to have local people involved in the process.
"The AFL don't want to be making decisions on country football in the Wimmera from Melbourne," Mr Kuchel said.
"That's why it's really important to have local input in the overall view of footy, and the strategic direction of sport in the region."
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Mr Kuchel, a former AFL Wimmera-Mallee commissioner, said the inaugural board provided a diverse array of perspectives.
"We've got a great group of people," he said.
"Location-wise Megan Shea and Col Thompson are from Ararat, Trevor Albrecht is from Nhill and Nathan Neumann is involved at Harrow.
"Shayne Breuer has great knowledge and expertise from his time in the AFL and of junior pathways, and Cam Pickering provides an umpire's perspective.
"So it's really going to give us a perspective from every angle."
Among the board's top priorities was supporting clubs through the fallout of COVID-19.
"It's the great unknown - nothing like this has ever happened before," Mr Kuchel said.
"There's certainly challenges around football and netball next year.
"Jason has been speaking to a lot of clubs to see where they're at, and our job is to support and provide help to clubs in the region, to make sure that we do come out of it as best as we can."
Mr Kuchel said the board was also focussed on talent pathways next year, and how it might be different for junior athletes as governing bodies deal with the financial consequences of 2020.
Junior participation was also seen as a high priority.
Mr Kuchel said helping up-skill junior coaches was a major component to maintaining a high level of participation.
"We saw data for the Wimmera from last year where we have one of the highest participation rates in the state," he said. "It's the population that hurts us.
"We're keen to provide resources and knowledge to help up-skill coaches, to make sure they're enjoying their job teaching skills, and the kids are enjoying their sport and learning as they go along.
"We just have to keep promoting the sport, getting junior coaches right with the right people in the right seats, and make sure kids are enjoying their footy."
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