PIES THIRDS QUERY

MARYBOROUGH'S future in the Bendigo Football Netball League could hinge on this Friday's BFNL board meeting.

While the Magpies made it clear this week that they're confident they'll have enough players to field senior and reserves sides this year, the under-18s remain a major stumbling block.

The Magpies still require at least 12 under-18 players to have enough players to field a side this season.

The BFNL has made it clear it wants all 10 of its clubs to field a full complement of football and netball sides to remain affiliated with the league.

AFL Central Victoria regional operations manager Justin Abrams said the BFNL board told Maryborough in December that it needed to field three football sides in 2014.

"We've been very clear to all our clubs that all football and netball teams are required,'' Abrams said.

"We don't want to go down the path of plugging up holes in fixtures like we have in the past.

"Going forward, as a major league, we expect all our clubs to achieve this.

"I'm not sure how the BFNL board will feel about it should Maryborough not have enough under-18s. It may come down to a (AFL Central Victoria) commission decision."

The 2013 BFNL under-18 season was marred by the absence of Maryborough and Castlemaine.

Abrams said Maryborough was doing everything in its power to attract more players.

"There's a lot of water to go under the bridge yet, and, I hope, everything falls into place for them,'' Abrams said.

"We want Maryborough not just to survive, but to be competitive in the BFNL.

"It's a tough environment for the club and I really feel for the people involved.

"Hopefully, they can get enough players at the club."

Maryborough president Mick Reid said this Wednesday night's training session would give the club a better guide to how serious its under-18 plight was.

"We've had a number of kids who said they want to play,'' Reid said.

"For us to be convinced they want to play, we need them to turn up at training.

"So we've given the players an ultimatum of getting to training on Wednesday."

Meanwhile, Reid was hopeful star key position player Tyson MacIlwain would remain at the club.

MacIlwain had been training with VFL club Williamstown but is yet to decide where he'll play.

"Tyson has been around the club for a long time and he's very loyal to Maryborough,''  Reid said.

"We're confident he'll stay at Maryborough."

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