MARYBOROUGH is preparing to field its first under-18 team in the Bendigo Football-Netball League for six years.
A lack of numbers has prevented the Magpies from competing in the BFNL's under-18 competition since 2016, but the side will finally return from its hiatus when the 2022 season kicks off in April.
The Magpies had 17 registered under-18 players at a meeting on Monday night and are confident of at least another five pulling on the boots in their return season.
"It has been six years since we last had an under-18 team, so to get one up and running again is fantastic for the club," Maryborough vice-president Brendan Roughead said on Wednesday.
"We had a competitive group of under-16s last year who are coming through to the under-18s and we've appointed a popular coach in Brady Neill.
"Brady has coached a lot of basketball and knows a lot of kids in that age group and is also a PE teacher, so I think that combination has been really good."
Neill - who is also part of Maryborough's senior leadership group - will be assisted by Andy Medlyn, while Mitch McClure will be the under-18s skills coach.
It has been six years since we last had an under-18 team, so to get one up and running again is fantastic for the club- Brendan Roughead
BFNL manager Cameron Tomlins said the league was thrilled to be welcoming back the Magpies into the under-18 competition.
"It's really exciting for the club and competition in general," Tomlins said.
"The club has put an incredible amount of hard work into this and it has obviously been quite a few years now that their under-18 team has been missing.
"Credit to the club, which has made some really good coaching appointments and they have been able to generate some real buzz around the town, so it's great for the competition."
The 2022 BFNL season will get under way on Saturday, April 9, with Maryborough headed to Dower Park to take on Kangaroo Flat in round one.
"The junior structure for clubs and getting it right is critical in terms of the future of the senior club," Tomlins said.
"And with the points system and club sustainability program that is in place, that junior structure is now as important as it has ever been. What we want to see is kids develop through a junior program and then staying at that club through a senior pathway."
While the Magpies will have their under-18 team finally returning to the field, they will continue to face an ongoing challenge with their reserves numbers.
"Our numbers are struggling in terms of reserves; a lot of people have had a couple of years off football and moved on and there's obviously a fair bit of competition around us with district league sides, so that's a challenge we're continuing to work through," said Roughead, who has stood down as president after five years in the role, with Kelvin Noonan taking over.
Meanwhile, junior football registrations are now open for Kyneton.
"There is a renewed energy and excitement about the club as we strive to give our junior male and female footballers the best possible experience from under-10 through to under-16," Kyneton head of junior football Daniel Murray said.
"There are some incredibly committed people involved once again this year, including our upper-age coaches in Kristy Murray with the under-16 girls and Brad Ryan with the under-18 boys.
"Both are already busy planning training sessions and practice matches that are set to commence in the first week of March.
"We'd love to see representatives from all age groups be involved from training and game-day preparation through to behind the scenes of shaping the future of our club."
Those wanting to play junior football with Kyneton can register at www.kynetonfnc.com/junior-football
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