Fight to remove footy capping policy from Western Regional AFL leagues

Western District MP James Purcell has taken the fight to remove capping on junior football player numbers to the State Parliament today.

Recently the Western District Regional AFL Commission announced they would be capping numbers in junior football at the Hampden and Warrnambool District leagues.

Mr Purcell today asked the Sport Minister to intervene, after being contacted by several constituents disappointed that the recommendations from the commission’s junior football review were being introduced without further consultation with member clubs.

"Junior competitions such as under 12s in both leagues can no longer have a team list of a size they so choose, they are now to have no more than 26 players on their list, no more than 16 on the field and no more than five on the bench each game, causing 5 players each week to miss a game for each side,” Mr Purcell said.

The Member for Western Victoria said all Hampden League clubs to be impacted by this decision were against the move and were frustrated they weren’t given the opportunity to speak against the recommendations.

"What it means is two, three, or more 10-year-old boys can be told they can’t fit at the club where their cousins or friends play, or the club where their dad or grandfather played because they already have their numbers under the cap.

"In a city where the next club is just a suburb away this model may not be as much of a problem. But in a regional setting, for instance, if your granddad, your father, your older brother and your cousins play for Koroit for instance, it's unlikely any 10-year-old will want to line up for the Port Fairy team if the Saints have already reached their cap.

"This might be a metropolitan solution, but it certainly won’t work in country areas.”

Mr Purcell said sport was an essential element in developing strong communities and especially important in regional communities, where children were already disadvantaged in transport, education and employment opportunities.

"This means that – at a time when we are promoting healthy lifestyles and physical activity – more children will sit on the bench, or worse still miss out on a game under the proposed 16 and 5 rule, instead of running around on the field for their club of choice.

“It means that – at a time when we should be focusing on mental health and social wellbeing – clubs are potentially going to be forced to exclude young children who just want to play football with their mates and go to the same club as other members of their family. I don’t think anyone benefits from that situation.”

Mr Purcell said the changes removed any flexibility for clubs wanting to include children in their teams.

"It simply punishes clubs who have fostered positive family environments and club cultures, rather than congratulating those that have.

"This move is short-sighted and will have negative ramifications for the family focus that is central to country football."

Mr Purcell has urged the Minister to intervene and encourage the Western District AFL to remove the compulsory capping policy along with the other proposed changes around numbers on the field and interchange.