Record number of kids lacing up for footy post-lockdown21st March, 2021
The Yarra Junior Football League was featured in Sunday’s Herald Sun (21/3/21), the following article is by Peter Rolfe:
Footy-starved kids are set to return to the field in record numbers as junior players reboot grassroots seasons for the first time since 2019.
Victorian junior footy leagues have recorded a surge in interest from boys and girls, keen to make up for lost time after a coronavirus-enforced stint on the sidelines last year.
Yarra Junior Football League — the state’s biggest grassroots competition for kids — is eyeing 11,000 players for the first time.
Although the season is still more than three weeks away, there are already 530 teams on the league’s books, up from 508 in 2019.
With AFL back and AFLW finals looming, organisers are putting no limits on how many players might join the ranks as footy fever returns.
Yarra Junior football operations manager Brad Jamison said unprecedented numbers of children keen to follow in the footsteps of their AFL and AFLW heroes were “excited and keen to get into it”.
He said girls made up about 25 per cent of these numbers.
Parade St Damian’s Junior Football club members Noah Whelan, Oscar Schroeders, Tyrone Mangos, Cohen Thomas and Ashton Stojkovski. Picture: Josie Hayden
“It’s all systems go,” he said. “The clubs are ready to go, the kids are keen to get on the ground, everyone is just itching. It can’t come quick enough.”
While parents last year had to explain to kids why they could not lace up their boots, he said momentum was building for a bigger season than ever.
“We’re really grateful to the clubs and volunteers and the parents who have worked really hard to get football back,” he said. “It’s had to be rebooted after a year off and that is not an easy thing to do.
“Where we are at with the numbers at the moment is a reflection on the hard work of everyone. We just can’t wait to have the ball bounced.”
The biggest junior season in Melbourne was in 2019, when 10,614 people registered. Mr Jamison said this year’s numbers were “really good” and the 2019 mark was likely to be surpassed as anticipation continued to build.
“I think everyone is just really keen to get involved in football again,” he said.
“I think they are just itching to get out there and playing … there is a real momentum of getting out there and being active again.”
Parade St Damian’s Junior Football club committee member Mark Whelan said eager kids started training early this season as players swapped screen time for footy.
“Numbers have grown in excess of 10 per cent compared to the same time last year, particularly in the young age groups,” he said.