Junior Morwell merger mooted

A PUSH to redevelop football in Morwell could see its two junior football clubs become one entity as early as next season.

The move comes after a comprehensive review of participation numbers found football in Morwell faces an unsustainable future.

In a bid to “buck the trend” and get local kids to continue playing for their local club, a steering committee will next week try to drive an amalgamation.

It will involve Morwell Tigers and Morwell Youth Club junior football clubs, which steering committee chair Anthony Bloomfield said could not feed enough players into Morwell’s senior teams.

“It’s about trying to fix that, equalising the sides, making sure there are good coaches,” Bloomfield said.

“And making sure kids who live in Morwell play in Morwell and to get more numbers back into the senior clubs down the track.”

Almost 30 young footballers dropped out of the code at the end of the 2014 season, with 33 kids who live in the 3840 postcode playing outside of town.

Although Morwell Youth Club has enjoyed some relative success, the Tigers have managed just one or two victories in each age group since 2012.

Bloomfield acknowledged the move would be sensitive to parents and life members, but it was a matter of “putting the kids’ best interests at heart”.

“I guess the thing was, I got involved in the sub committee with the view to make sure that any change didn’t occur,” Bloomfield said.

“When I actually began being presented with the statistics and information and saw how footy was tracking in Morwell, it made me realise it wasn’t about my thoughts.

“It was about the 150 kids who played footy in Morwell next year.”

Representatives from AFL Gippsland, Central Gippsland Junior Football League, Morwell East and Morwell football netball clubs agreed.

Each party has been involved in the project since the idea was first mooted last year.

They all suggested it was for the “betterment of football in Morwell as a whole”.

AFL Gippsland regional general manager Travis Switzer said, although initially driven by the two junior clubs, all affected bodies had since come on board.

“We are all on the same page, at the end of the day we want more kids playing footy in Morwell,” Switzer said.

“We want more kids playing Auskick and going through from junior footy to senior clubs.

“There is a bit of a drop out (and) we really need to focus on putting together a model to see us retain the kids as much we can.”

That model will involve a growth strategy beginning with Morwell’s schools, attracting primary students to Auskick, into junior football and eventually into the senior competition.

CGJFL president Craig Skinner was involved with a similar merger with his former junior club, Newborough Hawks, in 2010.

He said he understood “wholeheartedly” the hesitation some would feel about losing their club’s history and colours.

“But the highest priority is the junior development of the footballers,” Skinner said.

“I would say to those people that weren’t sure, the highest priority here is giving young boys and girls the best opportunity to be the best they can.

“It’s not the colour of the jumper or how long that jumper or club has been in place.

“It’s about right now and giving Morwell the chance to develop their junior football like other clubs, to the best of their ability.”

Any amalgamation would see the junior football clubs stay at their shared home ground on Morwell’s Northern Reserve.

The history and awards of each club will be showcased in the Morwell Youth Club’s social club rooms, where a separate wall will be allocated for the new entity.

Only life and committee members, along with honorary members at Morwell Tigers, are permitted to vote on any alignment, to take place on Monday and Tuesday night.

Parents and other volunteers will be invited to have their say on any new jumper, name or emblem an aligned club is to take on.