MARONG Football-Netball Club president Danny Tyler says the club's interest in transferring to the Heathcote District league from next year is sparked by a desire to provide the Panthers' juniors with a stronger pathway.
While there can be no official applications lodged to seek a transfer with AFL Central Victoria until August 1 under AFL Victoria rules, both the Panthers and fellow Loddon Valley league club Maiden Gully YCW have made presentations to the HDFNL outlining their vision moving forward.
The Bendigo Advertiser understands the majority of HDFNL clubs are supportive of welcoming both the Panthers and Eagles as 10th and 11th clubs next year.
The Panthers have been a part of the Loddon Valley Football-Netball League since 1983, but Tyler says the club needs to be looking at what's best for its junior players moving forward given the struggling nature of the under-18 football competition that this year has just four teams competing - one of which is a composite (East Loddon) - as well as the challenge some clubs are facing with junior netball numbers.
AFL Central Victoria is currently undertaking a "third tier" review of the under-18 football structure across the region.
"For us it's about making sure we've got as strong a pathway as possible for our 200 junior footballers and netballers," Tyler said this week.
"Looking to make the move is nothing to do with the senior scenario in the Loddon Valley league, it's purely about our kids coming through and it's not just football-related, it's netball-related as well.
Looking to make the move is nothing to do with the senior scenario in the Loddon Valley league, it's purely about our kids coming through and it's not just football-related, it's netball-related as well- Danny Tyler - Marong president
"There's quite a number of clubs not fielding junior teams in the netball competitions as well and I can't see that getting any better in the future."
As well as only four teams in the under-18 football competition in which the Panthers are on top, the Loddon Valley league doesn't have a full quota of junior netball sides either in the 13-under (8); 15-under (8); and 17-under (7) grades.
"Unfortunately, the 17-under netball looks to be heading down the same path as the under-18 football. It's not ideal to have our young players missing out on games, especially with the Golden City competition just down the road from Marong, so there's real competition for numbers," Tyler said.
"And looking at the under-18 football, if that wasn't to get off the ground next year we don't want to be just here sitting on our hands and then left with nowhere for our kids to play."
The Panthers looking at a switch of leagues comes at a time when the club is one of the red-hot favourites, along with Pyramid Hill, to win the LVFNL senior premiership for the first time since 1989, as well as the reserves and under-18 flags.
"We've taken years to get to this level on the field in the seniors and it would be quite easy for us just to continue on and have on-field success for the next three or four years from a senior perspective," Tyler said.
"But once the pathway for the under-18s dries up that's going to cut all our junior players coming through the ranks.
"At the moment we've got at least 10 Marong juniors playing in the reserves or seniors every week and they are not just making up the numbers, they are our better players and we're mindful of not losing that next generation of players coming through the ranks at our club."
The Panthers travel to Pyramid Hill for round 13 on Saturday.
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