THE 2018 LVFNL A-grade netball season will continue without Inglewood.
A shortage of A-grade players left the Blues with no choice but to make the tough decision to withdraw from the top-grade competition.
The exemption was granted by the LVFNL executive about a week before the Blues were scheduled to take to the court for the first time this season against Bridgewater this weekend following an opening round bye.
Rival clubs were notified of the development on the weekend.
Inglewood will continue to enter teams in the B-grade, C-grade and C-reserve competitions as well as both junior grades (17-and-under and 15-and-under).
Lizzie Wiggins, who had been appointed A-grade coach for a second season, said the Blues had lost as many as 10 players across all grades in the past few weeks for a variety reasons.
“We ended up just having to call it, otherwise we would have ended up having players have to double up on games,” she said.
“It’s no secret, we struggle retaining players due to our reputation (as a battling club) and no one is willing to go out on a limb.
“It’s frustrating, so we’ve ended up going to the league and asking for an exemption and they have granted it.
“Something has got to change …. in some respects distance is a tyranny, people won’t travel and won’t commit to Inglewood.”
Wiggins, who joined the Blues from Strathfieldsaye in 2017 and following an association with YCW, will remain at Inglewood as coach of all three senior teams and as a player
She said the focus for the Blues would turn to being as competitive as possible in all other grades, something she was confident of achieving.
“We will be able to field a competitive B and C-grade sides and our 17s and 15s will be very competitive,” Wiggins said.
“Had we had (the full number) of players we originally had, I was confident of us being competitive across all grades, but it’s hard to play competitive netball when you are missing seven (A-grade players).
“We’ve basically got 21 (senior) players now, we can’t afford any injuries at the moment.
“The 17s and 15s look set for a very good year.”
Inglewood’s 17-and-under team finished last season in third place and was premiers as recently as 2016.
The 15-and-unders were also finalists in 2017.
The Blues are hoping they can return to A-grade next season.
Inglewood is not the only club in the region without an A-grade team this season.
Castlemaine and Kyneton are without A-grade teams in the Bendigo Football Netball League, the Tigers for a second consecutive season.