Campbells Creek Football Netball Club (FNC) members are making a last-ditch effort to save dozens of their players from being unable to participate in any games this season.
- Campbells Creek Football Netball Club has been unable to field a men’s side
- An “archaic” club rule states it must field a men’s side for the rest of the teams to play during the winter season
- Sport experts have slammed the rule saying football and netball clubs need a post-pandemic overhaul
Already more than 50 junior players for both sporting codes have been told they are unable to play because the club is unable to field a senior men’s team.
“It’s shattering,” said player and netball coach May Pratt.
“Kids participating in sport should never rely on having enough adults to do so. It does not make sense.
“We’re a grassroots football club, not an elite league.
The club revealed earlier this week that it was going into recess and would withdraw all teams from the 2021 Maryborough-Castlemaine District Football Netball League (MCDFNL) season due to not having a senior team.
“It’s devastating, we’ve tried for weeks to rally the troops. We’ve spoken to the league but it just has not fallen into line quickly enough and round one starts on Good Friday,” said club secretary Marg Stevens.
“There was no other option really we didn’t know how to get the netballers out there with all of the football stuff in the background.
Netballers frustrated with treatment
Ms Pratt has started an online fundraiser to try to save her club.
League rules require clubs that are unable to field a team in a division to pay thousands of dollars in penalties.
Ms Pratt said the club could face up to $10,000 due to its decision to step away from the season.
She expressed frustration with what she saw as the treatment of netball as a second-rate sport.
“[It’s] country football clubs with netball tacked on the side.
“We’ve got two senior teams of netballers ready to play but we don’t get the chance to do that because there are not enough blokes to play.”
She said her community was eager to engage in sporting activities during their downtime.
“We’re country people who want to get out there on the weekend and do something,” Ms Pratt said.
Club focuses on 2022 reboot
Multiple pleas have come from players for allowances to be made for the club.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan vowed he would follow up on the issue as he recognisied that country football was important to small communities.
The AFL said in a statement it would work with the club.
“AFL Victoria has been in ongoing discussions with Campbells Creek FNC to help the club through the process of registering players for the 2021 season,” the statement said.
“The club recently advised AFL Victoria that, despite best efforts, insufficient player registrations led to the club’s decision to go into recess for the 2021 season.
“AFL Victoria will continue to work with the club and league in helping players find other clubs this year and provide support for Campbells Creek FNC to be in a position to return to fielding teams in the MCDFNL football competition for the 2022 season.”
Ms Pratt said the decision was particularly disappointing for her four children who all loved being involved at the club.
“Kids are being stopped from playing sport because of how many adults we can’t get to play,” she said.
The club’s committee members said they were focused on a reboot for the 2022 season.
“Without the support of our league behind us, without the players actually coming, I don’t know what else we could have done,” Ms Stevens said.
“We’ve exhausted all avenues we could have done.”
Participation rates changing
Stuart Craig from Loddon Campaspe Sports Assembly said the club’s situation could be the tip of the iceberg and feared other clubs could soon face the same situation.
“This club has reached out for some support and it’s gone into recess,” he said.
“Unfortunately, at the end of the day, financial support won’t result in a numbers increase.”
Mr Craig said the league needed to better understand what its members wanted and actively create a suitable competition.
“You create structures and competition that suit present-day participation trends.”
Mr Craig said clubs were now seeing the pandemic’s impact on winter sport.
“Last winter we had a situation where sport was cancelled,” he said.
“As a result, it’s a new start for sport, not a restart and that’s what we need to get across to these administrators.
Mr Craig said his research showed that sporting participation and registrations were down as people remained cautious about potential cancellations.
He said the league needed an overhaul.
“If you want to support these clubs, you need to look at how the bi-laws are structured,” he said.
“They’re meant to be changed; you can’t live in an antiquated system.”