LODDON Valley Football-Netball League president Colleen Rogers hopes a change from under-17s to under-18s next year reinvigorates the junior competition.
After years of discussing the topic and following an AFL Central Victoria working party looking at participation levels in the game, the LVFNL junior age-limit will increase next year from under-17s to under-18s.
The LVFNL has fought a constant battle in recent years with its player numbers for the under-17 competition, with change needed to breathe new life into it.
“We’ve introduced a lot of modifications to the rules and regulations, particularly this year, to the under-17s to keep teams out there on the park and it’s reached the point where we really can’t do any more,” Rogers said.
“As for the recommendation from the commission to change to under-18s, that’s obviously to be tested and we don’t know if it will make a difference or not.
“But we’ve got to the point where to do nothing was just not an option, so we have to go forward with this.
“That doesn’t mean that every club in the league agrees with it, but hopefully, there will be kids who will be attracted to it.
“Hopefully, it will help to keep kids in the game because there’s a massive drop-off from ages 15-16 onwards.”
Mitiamo is the only LVFNL club without an under-17 side this year, but clubs such as Bears Lagoon-Serpentine, which didn’t have a team last year, Newbridge and YCW have faced constant number struggles this season.
The recommendation from the AFLCV Commission states that with the majority of LVFNL under-17s having come through the Bendigo Junior Football League system that finishes at under-16s, the lifting of the age group to under-18s will now allow them two years to prepare for senior football.
“This is seen as important given the large drop off of players at under-16 BJFL level (often due to a lack of confidence in their ability) and the under-17 LVFNL," the report says.
“It provides one extra year for player development.
“It’s important to note here that the very large majority of LVFNL under-17 players are Bendigo-based.
“We understand this decision will not suit every club, however, to do nothing is not an option considering the current state of the competition.”
The report from the commission showed that almost 80 per cent of LVFNL under-17 players this year lived within the Bendigo postcode, compared to just over 50 per cent two years ago.
The Heathcote District league will remain under-17s.