Concerns about the future of junior and senior football in the Perth Hills were placed firmly on the agenda with clubs, parents and supporters attending an open forum last Wednesday at Percy Cullen Oval in Gidgegannup.
Hills Football Association president Brian Pallister said participation had declined and some clubs were fighting for their survival.
“There is a drop off in the number of kids playing after Auskick and they start dropping off all over the place around age 15,” he said.
“But the biggest decline is when players go to high school and the real tackling starts on a full size oval and some kids can’t handle the pressure of being thrown to the ground.’’
West Australian Football Commission Swan Districts manager Isaac Stewart said the Swans District Football Development Council had identified a smaller intake in the youth segment.
But he said the participation in secondary school competitions and programs continued to increase.
“Youth participation generally has a smaller intake in comparison to junior participation which is due to part-time work and study commitments,” Mr Stewart said.
“But overall participation has increased due to a growing Auskick, junior and senior participation base.
“The council has more than 13,000 people participating in Auskick, juniors, youth, seniors, veterans, primary school, secondary school, social football and women’s.”
Mr Stewart said the council had also put in place initiatives to boost participation including for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people living with a disability.
Mr Pallister said the open forum also addressed concern the Hills Rangers Football Club, formed prior to the 2014 AFL season by a merger of the Eastern Hills Hawks and the Darlington-Parkerville Warriors, would absorb junior clubs in the region.
He said the merge was triggered by the declining participation levels within the Mundaring Shire and the push to provide a more complete pathway for junior football in the Perth Hills.
“Progressively numbers are getting less and less with the juniors and there is some gossip and worry the Hills Rangers want to eventually control all the juniors in the hills,” he said.
But Mr Pallister said the junior club presidents had collaborated to boost numbers.
“The presidents have formulated a memorandum of understanding to support maintaining the current junior structure while the Hills Rangers remains a youth club so juniors can still maintain pathway into Hills Rangers which caters for youth players from 12 to 18,” he said.