As winter sports prepare for their season start amidst the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, one West Gippsland sporting leader is urging the region’s young people to get involved with their local footy and netball club – and to stay a part of it.
Allan Douglas is not only both the A Grade and C Grade netball coach at Cora Lynn, he’s also the netball club president and serves on the football committee.
He has noticed an alarming trend when it comes to the numbers of junior netballers involved in clubland, heading into what is still hoped will be an action-packed 2021 campaign.
After the coronavirus pandemic ruled a line through the 2020 season before it could even begin, Douglas said the continued uncertainty surrounding 2021 has had a significant impact on community clubs.
Since the WGFNC began in 2017, Cora Lynn has won each under-13 netball premiership (in 2017, 2018, and 2019) – showing the level of talent rising through the Cobra ranks.
But, for 2021, the club is struggling to get enough numbers together to form a side in the all-important, formative age group.
The Cobras have also played deep into the finals in both the under-15s and under-17s, but 2020 and now 2021 have thrown up a range of new challenges to contend with.
“For the first time we’re struggling to get some interest and I think it’s more Covid-related than anything,” he said, adding he felt most – if not all clubs – would be in a similar position.
“We’re way down on numbers in the juniors and it’d be a shame if we couldn’t field an under-13s team after winning three premierships in a row.
“A lot of those girls have missed a really big year already in 2020, and now they’re in the under-15s for 2021.
“And because there’s been such little stadium-type netball in this area either, there’s been nearly a 12-month gap of no netball for a lot of these girls.”
Both Cora Lynn’s football and netball arms are working together towards the common goal of player recruitment and retention, and Douglas said that’s key.
“I think there’s a couple of factors behind the situation – parents and families have their weekends back and they’re enjoying that, and maybe one or both of the parents have lost their jobs – or had their hours cut back – so the money isn’t there,” he said.
“But community sport can provide so much to these kids, and their families.”
Douglas said the friendship, competitive spirit, and community mindedness that stems from local footy and netball clubs can prove invaluable to young people, in particular.
And he’s urging young footballers and netballers throughout Gippsland and the south-east to get involved with their local clubs if they’re not already.
“The rising tide lifts all boats, so if all our clubs have healthy numbers of kids playing, it just makes the environment – and the competition – that much better,” he said.
“You don’t want kids to be missing out on multiple games a year because certain clubs can’t field teams.
“It’d be great to see all kids experiencing a sporting club and everything they have to offer.”
To get involved in Cora Lynn’s junior netball program, email email@example.com. The Cora Lynn Netball Club intends to hold a junior fun day, starting at 9am on 20 February at the Cora Lynn netball courts, subject to the Covid-19 rules in place.