Omeo League saga

Stratford musician and Lindenow South Football-Netball Club President, Mick Harrington has been thrown a curveball on the eve of the Omeo District Football-Netball League season. Photo: File

Liam Durkin

THE quaint Omeo District Football-Netball League has been thrown into some turmoil right on the eve of the season.

A tougher stance on the minimum age for junior footballers in specific teams has some ODFNL clubs fearing they won’t be able to field sides.

The ODFNL only fields senior and under 16 football, mainly due to the very small population base of competing clubs Swifts Creek, Omeo-Benambra, Lindenow South, Swan Reach, Bruthen and Buchan.

Children as young as 10 have played in under 16 football teams in the past in order to get games going.

However, the AFL has introduced a three-year gap mandate for players wishing to participate in a junior team.

For an under 16 match, a player would need to be at least 13-years-of-age.

Provisions are in place for “compelling and exceptional” circumstances, including a junior player’s football development, physical capacity, experience and social maturity.

For the ODFNL, which is in the very unique situation of having only one grade of senior football and one grade of juniors, it is indeed looming as an anomaly.

While having primary school age children competing against teenagers only two years away from adulthood may come as shocking, it is understood ODFNL junior games are played under a gentleman’s agreement – whereby, older players look after the younger ones.

Given their remote locations, it is reasonably assumed most ODFNL clubs will go ahead with junior matches as usual regardless of the new rule.

However, that would then open up insurance issues if a player was to get injured.

Stratford musician and Lindenow South Football-Netball Club President, Mick Harrington told The Weekly Times the powers at be weren’t considering reality.

“It screams of the old city ivory tower designing its square peg and then expecting to force it into the round hole in the country,” he said.

“It will kill our junior competition, it will kill our footy clubs and it will literally kill our small towns.

“We’ve had bushfires, COVID, more bushfires, floods, the shutdown of the timber industry, amalgamations of schools. What else can we take?”

The ODFNL season begins tomorrow.

Lindenow South are scheduled to host Bruthen.