THE Bendigo Football-Netball League is likely to put the raising of its under-18s to under-19s on the agenda for its clubs to discuss as it looks ahead to 2021.
Earlier this year in April there were concerns raised among clubs about the impact on top-age junior players if season 2020 was wiped out by the coronavirus crisis - which it ultimately was.
With the season being cancelled it has denied both top-age under-18 footballers and under-17 netballers the chance to play their final year of under-age competition in the BFNL.
The Heathcote District league has already made the call to increase its under-age football for next year from under-17s to under-18s following the 2020 cancellation in a move that has garnered a mixed reaction from clubs.
BFNL manager Cameron Tomlins anticipates the BFNL to be having the same discussion with its clubs about the merits of increasing the football and netball age limits for next year.
"At this point in time there is nothing in depth, but it was a discussion point earlier in the year as a consideration that we may have to give some thought to in the off-season given how much football and netball our under-age competitions have missed out on and the effect it could have on their development and how we may be able to combat that," Tomlins said on Thursday.
"We'll look to lock something in with our clubs over the next few weeks to have a bit of a de-brief on 2020 and discussion around 2021.
"I know there have been other leagues, including the NAB League (moving from under-18s to under-19s), that have been looking at their structure and whether that will have an impact on us, I don't think it will. We'll consult with our clubs and make sure we're making the right decisions for us.
"Something we do on an annual basis is look at our overage exemptions that are there for players who haven't quite developed to the level that they need to to step up into senior football, so that's something we could also look at for next year with some more flexibility."
The BFNL's under-18 football competition remained as is this year following an AFL Central Victoria "Third Tier Competition" review completed last year.
As part of the review Bendigo league clubs were asked about the merits of the under-18 competition becoming under-19s.
The response was five clubs believe under-18s is correct and under-19s would be of no benefit; two clubs believe under-19s to be the ideal age group; while three clubs would consider a change to under-19s if it could be proved to be beneficial.
Meanwhile, Loddon Valley league president Simon Tuohey said there had been no thought given to an alteration of its under-18 football age group for next year.
"We haven't got any plans at this point in time (to change age limits). It's not something we've discussed with clubs to see what their thoughts are," Tuohey said.
Part of the reasoning for the HDFNL under-18 decision is through an already challenging time for clubs to try to reduce the movement of players coming out of the under-17s this year to neighbouring leagues, such as Bendigo, Loddon Valley and Goulburn Valley, to play an additional junior year in under-18s.
In a Bendigo Advertiser letter to the editor earlier this week, Ben Dyett, who coached North Bendigo under-17s last year, wrote the Bulldogs lost 23 players from their under-17 team after 2019 "through no fault of their own."
"They were actually a great club that fully supported their under-17 team, but these boys wanted to play under-18s. Five went to South Bendigo, one to Golden Square, one to Calivil, 14 went to Maiden Gully and two stopped playing," wrote Dyett, who is now Maiden Gully YCW's under-18 coach.
An online Bendigo Advertiser poll asking "what do you think of the HDFNL decision to move from under-17s to under-18s for next year?" had 84.6 % in favour and 15.4 % against as of Thursday afternoon.
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