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Hills footy clubs are worried they will lose their identity if West Australian Football Commission merger plans proceed. Picture: LYNNE DULLARD

Hills footy fighting for survival

HILLS footy clubs fear they will collapse if a proposal by the West Australian Football Commission to merge their competition with the metropolitan junior competition goes ahead.

Hills Football Association president Brian Pallister said clubs, parents and supporters were invited to discuss the plan at the Save Hills Footy meeting this weekend.

Mr Pallister said under the merger proposal the commission would also require all teams to be age specific.

“The hills population is nothing like the suburbs so we have less numbers to draw from,” he said.

“At present the hills juniors are unique in that it is a separate competition and doesn’t need to revert to single age groups.

“If footy is made age specific then Hills clubs will have to merge so Mt Helena may have to combine with Chidlow and Gidgegannup to form one team.

“Clubs and identities will be lost which will slowly impact on all clubs, junior and senior as they disappear.

“Training will end up at one venue and parents are stretched already getting their kids to sport on weekends without having to go further afield for games and training.

“This will undoubtedly lead to more numbers being lost.

“Junior footy in the Hills shouldn’t be all about politics at the WA Football Commission or Swan Districts, it should be what is best for a unique competition and football participation in general.”

WA Football Commission chief executive officer Gavin Taylor said the commission along with the Swan Districts were exploring options to provide the best opportunities for all junior football participants in the area.

“This includes looking at the structure of teams and age groups in relevant junior competitions,” he said.

“The WAFC wants as many juniors playing football as possible across all districts and competitions.”

Mr Taylor said it was important to strengthen the success of junior football, noting junior football numbers increased in WA by 9.3 per cent last year.

“It is important we continue to cater for this growth and innovate to ensure we are providing quality competitions for every player, umpire, official and volunteer involved with the game,” he said.

“Local community members who volunteer their time at clubs are critical to running the game and they will be engaged throughout the process.”

But Mt Helena Junior Football Club president Amy Lyon said the proposal would make football unattractive to busy parents, particularly  FIFO families.

“I’m all for giving our kids an opportunity to play against teams from the flats for something different, in a round robin style carnival, but not on a regular weekly fixture,” she said.

“Parents with several kids playing footy on a Sunday already struggle to get all their kids to the right oval at the right times.

“Throw a Midvale or a Swan View location into that mix and these poor parents will have even more of a struggle on their hands.

“If fixtures become too much of a struggle on parents, numbers will drop and clubs will fold.”

Chidlow Junior Football Club treasurer Cherrie Cahill said if clubs were forced to field age specific teams they would be forced to merge with another club.

“Our small club has a limited numbers of junior players, as do a lot of other hills clubs,” she said.

“Currently we are able to combine our Year 3 and Year 4 to make a very strong team and we do the same with Year 5 and 6.

“If we have to merge with another hills club such as Mt Helena or Gidgegannup it will further reduce the number of teams in a hills club that is already small in numbers.”

Mr Taylor said WAFC representatives will attend the community forum to listen to everyone’s views before any decisions are finalised.

The Save Hills Footy meeting will be held at Parkerville Hall on Sunday, February 5 at 11am.

By Sarah Brookes

About Sarah Brookes

Sarah is an award-winning journalist (2016 WA Media Awards - Best Three Suburban Newspaper Stories) who has covered our Mundaring and Kalamunda editions since 2011. She went to Eastern Hills Senior High School before studying chemistry and biology at university. Staring down a microscope two years into her degree she realised a future in science wasn’t for her – journalism was. Sarah lived in Europe before re-settling in Darlington, where her family has lived for three generations, with her two children. She has worked for various government agencies and Media Monitors. Sarah is a media junkie who loves talkback radio and devours the weekend papers.

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