A country South Australia football league has hit out against rumours it will soon fold, calling for the community to fight to keep it alive.
- The Mallee Football League has struggled to find teenage players to fill junior sides
- President Ken Schutz says there is still a strong future for the competition
- The league is asking the Mallee community what they think is the best way for local footy to move forward
The Mallee Football League in the state’s east was formed in 1994 out of a merger of two other leagues but traces its roots as far back as the early 1900s.
It’s contested by five SA sides — Pinnaroo, Lameroo, Peake, Karoonda and Border Downs-Tintinara — as well as one side from across the Victorian border, Murrayville.
Amid community rumours that 2022 would be the league’s last year, the committee took to social media last week to commit to the competition’s long-term future.
President Ken Schutz was up-front when speaking to ABC Riverland and said the league had some issues to deal with, but it still had a future and would not be folding.
“It may change in structure, what teams we’ve got and what numbers we play with.
“I am optimistic for the simple fact that the Mallee league is really unique in the fact that it’s a family-based league.”
The league’s had a tumultuous time over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the 2020 season cancelled and state border restrictions creating difficulties in 2021.
Teenage players on the decline
Clubs have had no problems filling senior men’s and junior colts (under 13-year-old boys) teams but filling the senior colts, comprised of players 13–16 years old, has been a challenge.
Peake Football Club president Dale Farley said it was getting harder to source players because of the declining numbers of young people in the region.
“I’m 35 years old now, and where I went to primary school in Geranium, there was 80–90 kids, and I think there’s only 10 or 12 there now,” he said.
To ensure teenagers have somewhere to play before entering senior football, the league has organised games with composite sides, with players from different teams coming together.
“We just can’t have our kids playing nine-a-side or 12-a-side,” Mr Farley said.
League, SANFL looking for community thoughts
The league, as well as the South Australian National Football League, have started a community survey to ask the Mallee community what they think is the best way for local footy to move forward.
This survey will also go out to other country leagues in the near future.
“We need to get some really good information about not only what our players [think], but our supporters, our sponsors and everybody who is involved with a club,” Mr Schutz said.
“We want to know what their feeling is, how their club is going and where we want to be in five or 10 years time.”
Mr Farley said it was vital for the Mallee’s local footy league to survive.
“The people we’ve got in charge of the league are pretty passionate about doing the best they can to keep us ticking along,” he said.
“The chatter about the Mallee footy league has been going on for 10 years, but we just keep powering on.”
Posted 16m ago16 minutes agoFri 17 Jun 2022 at 3:20am, updated Just nowFri 17 Jun 2022 at 3:37am