EAST Gippsland United Football Club will field an under 21 and reserve grade team in this year’s Gippsland Soccer League central division.
EGUFC will replace the bye rounds in both competitions created by the addition of an 11th team, Morwell Pegasus, to the central roster.
GSL member clubs voted last Monday in favour of EGUFC taking part in the lower grades, despite being unable to meet the required GSL three team quota, which includes seniors.
EGUFC president Wayne Jarvis said the move was designed to accommodate the young club’s substantial junior base and weight of players graduating to the senior age brackets.
“We’ve been running some pretty strong junior sides at different times through our five years and it was kind of getting to a point where we had so many kids that were no longer eligible to play juniors and they had nowhere else to go,” Jarvis said.
“We’ve been desperate to try and give a soccer future for those kids here in East Gippsland.”
Pending the success of their debut season in the central ranks, Jarvis said the club’s aim was to eventually field a full compliment of senior sides.
“Unfortunately we don’t quite have the talent and the numbers to field all three divisions (right now),” he said.
“We expect to see the under 21 team do really well.
“The reserves we hope that they are able to field a more than competitive side with the view of course with this being the first stepping stone in the next chapter of EGUFC fielding a strong full compliment of men’s sides.”
The club fielded a side in the GSL second division last season and enjoyed an outstanding return, taking out the championship with just one regular season loss before dropping the grand final to Traralgon City 2-0.
That squad will form the backbone of the reserve and youth contingent, which will again be managed by head coach and club stalwart, Peter Camera.
As one of the biggest regional clubs east of Melbourne, with about 400 registered members, EGUFC is developing its grassroots players with an eye to providing for their senior careers.
“It would certainly be one of the biggest regional type clubs, but in saying that the vast majority of our players are under 16, probably 70 per cent of those registered members are juniors, but we want to make sure those kids have got a future,” Jarvis said.
The club was unable to garner enough numbers to keep its senior women’s side afloat in 2014.
Jarvis thanked the GSL and member clubs for the opportunity to participate.