THE age limit for junior football and netball competitions in the Wimmera is under the microscope, after the elite junior level changed its age-groups last week.
The AFL changed the age-limit for the NAB League - which includes the Greater Western Victoria Rebels - from under-16 and under-18 to under-17 and under-19.
The change allows juniors who missed their top-age season this year another chance in junior football.
And it's not just the elite leagues making the switch; Bendigo's Heathcote District league has also changed from under-17 to under-18 for next season.
Kalkee junior football coach Josh 'Roc' Beddison said a similar change should be considered for leagues in the Wimmera.
Confidence is probably the biggest thing you can get in that last year.Josh Beddison
Beddison said he was concerned junior players would not transition into senior football if they miss their top-age junior year.
"These younger guys gain confidence, improve their skills, and physically grow quite a lot in that last year of junior footy," he said.
"Confidence is probably the biggest thing you get in that last year. You train with the senior group a little bit more, which helps develop that communication with senior players and helps the progression into senior footy.
"Obviously we don't know how long this COVID thing is going to go on, or what footy is going to look like next year.
"But I think (increasing the age-groups) could be beneficial for the younger guys, and for long-term participation in seniors."
The Horsham District league and Wimmera league currently have under-14 and under-17 age groups.
Beddison said it could be harmful to players' development if they missed out on their top-age year.
"I noticed in my football, I was never developed as a footballer until that last year of juniors," he said.
"I went from being a five-foot tall, chubby sort of kid, to about six-foot tall and confident in my ability. It totally changed over that 12 months.
"Then you get into seniors, play a couple of games, and gain that level of confidence.
"I think training and being around the club is really important as well. It's going to be very daunting for some of those kids to rock-up to senior training next year and not know anyone."
Beddison also suggested that if a long-term change was too drastic, then allowing certain over-age players an exemption to play juniors for another year could be a solution.
AFL Wimmera-Mallee's Jason Muldoon said while the issue had not yet been brought to the table, it was a point worth considering.
"If the leagues and clubs think it's important, then the advisory board would certainly look at it and consider the pros and cons," he said.
Mr Muldoon said if any change were to be made, it would likely have to be for both the Horsham District league and the Wimmera league, to maintain an even playing field between the two leagues.
Mr Muldoon also raised two potentially negative ramifications to be considered.
"One side effect of raising the age-group to under-15s could be that you restrict a lot of the bottom-age kids coming in," he said.
"There is a four-year age limit that is allowed right now, just because of how quickly kids are developing physically at that age.
"Another potential concern is the effect it might have on the reserves competition, if it misses that influx of young players."
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