Age-group review could help participation

September 17, 2020 BY

Ocean Grove Cobras Taylor played Barwon Heads Gulls at Collendina Reserve on Saturday. Photo: MARK HEENAN MEDIA

REVIEWING junior sport age-groupings should be a key consideration for 2021 as a way of maintaining high levels of participation after COVID-19.

That’s the view of Ocean Grove Cobras junior football club president Dennis Hateley, who this week met with his committee to start planning for next year.

He said keeping registered player numbers stable was already front of mind.

“We expect there will be much discussion between clubs and AFL Barwon about the possibility of top-age kids going around again at junior level,” he said.

Junior footballers would normally play two years at under-13 level, with the second “top-age” year being critical for their development before they take the next step.

Mr Hateley said he was concerned some of this year’s top-age under-13 players may not want to continue to play football in 2021 and that a “back to the future” scenario – a return to a junior under-14 division – could be a solution.

“It might be better for those top-age kids to have another year full year,” he said.

“It might encourage kids to go around again – especially the ones who haven’t played much and who are on the fence about continuing next year.

“Looking ahead I am sure this will be part of planning between AFL Barwon and the clubs.”

Mr Hateley said 2020 had been a year like no other – just three junior rounds were completed and critical fundraisers and major events for the Cobras and other clubs did not go ahead because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was certainly a letdown after all the effort everyone had put in to get to the starting line,” he said.

“We had a record number of boys and girls at the Cobras (more than 380) ready to play this year with 19 teams.

“Numbers were strong, interest was strong, the enthusiasm was there.

“Fortunately, we’ve been able to manage the financials this year, to ensure the club is viable.

“We’re looking forward and hoping for a reasonably good run for footy next year.”

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