Weekly Times |MORE than half of Victoria’s senior country football leagues have clubs that are not fielding a thirds team this year.
Of the 34 Victorian country competitions that have thirds competition along with seniors and reserves, 17 are missing at least one junior side.
Some of the most depleted leagues are the Ellinbank and District, Mid Gippsland, and Mininera and District.
Mid Gippsland has 10 senior teams, but there are just seven in the under-18 division this year, down from nine last year. There are also only six under-16 teams.
Mid Gippsland president Gary Matthews said there had been cases of kids playing thirds and fourths so clubs could field teams. He said there would be a flow-on effect for the seniors down the track.
“It definitely concerns us. It’s been gradually getting worse over the last half dozen to 10 years,” he said.
“It’s a population shift and probably more so kids just don’t play footy any more.”
There are seven teams in the Ellinbank league’s under-18s this year, but 10 senior clubs.
Just eight of the 12 Mininera and District league clubs field an under-16.5 team as in the past two years.
There were 11 teams in 2014.
Other leagues have separate junior competitions.