Youth football in the Ovens and King Football League will be changed slightly from next year, making the competition under-19s rather than under-18s.
During the past 18 months AFL North East Border have been conducting a review of the OKFNL thirds competition, focusing on its current and future sustainability, in particular the numbers coming through Wangaratta, Benalla and alpine areas.
The North East Border’s findings and subsequent recommendations were put forward to the OKFNL Board at a recent board meeting.
As such the League has decided to adopt the recommendation to move the competition from under-18s to under-19s in 2018.
A number of considerations were discussed, and a major point that needed to be considered was, as the numbers in the review document suggest, if the competition was to remain at under-18s for next season a number of clubs will struggle to field a team, meaning the five-team competition may potentially drop away to a three or four team competition.
This means bottom-age players will not be denied the ability to play senior football; the age increase is designed for players who are not ready or do not feel ready to play reserves or seniors; there will be some by-law amendments reflecting conditions on a thirds player playing a certain amount of games either in the reserves or seniors and deeming them ineligible for finals once they have played a certain amount of games up.
It also means considerations around the thirds competition are being prioritised over reserves or seniors — for example a thirds player may only play up a level if the thirds team has 16 players on their team sheet.