Point­less ex­er­cise

Cockburn Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Smith

PARENTS have cried foul over a junior foot­ball rule that has cost their boys a shot at a flag this sea­son.

Barely a month out from fi­nals, a South Coogee Saints side has been stripped of its premiershi­p points after sea­son-long dis­cus­sions over the un­bal­anced na­ture of their two Year 10 teams.

The Saints’ top team had been well in con­tention with a record of five wins and a draw from its 10 games, but the club’s sec­ond side – play­ing in a lower divi­sion – was win­less.

In the end, the WA Foot­ball Com­mis­sion (WAFC) told the club to bol­ster its sec­ond side by mov­ing play­ers between the teams, face a fine, or lose the points and not play fi­nals.

The ul­ti­ma­tum led to ques­tions about the bal­ance between junior sport par­tic­i­pa­tion and suc­cess, with the WAFC adamant that a fo­cus on win­ning could be detri­men­tal to player re­ten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion.

At least one Saints player, Michael McKenna, told Cock­burn Gazette the sit­u­a­tion may have the op­po­site ef­fect.

“I’m se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing mov­ing to soc­cer be­cause of this,” he said.

Parents such as Jes­sica Sher­rell, whose son plays in the South Coogee team, be­lieve teenagers at the club played for each other re­gard­less of re­sults.

“Kids were join­ing be­cause they’re all mates; it’s not like they were leav­ing in droves,” she said.

“Our hearts are bleed­ing for the boys, coaches and team man­agers.”

She said the at­mos­phere within the Saints’ sec­ond team had re­mained pos­i­tive and they had even picked up new play­ers dur­ing the sea­son.

The club consulted the play­ers be­fore mak­ing the call to by­pass fi­nals and al­low the boys to re­main in their re­spec­tive teams.

Un­der the cur­rent WAFC by­laws, if a club has mul­ti­ple teams in an age group, each team must be com­pet­i­tive within their own league. The WAFC has the power to di­rect the club to re-al­lo­cate play­ers if one team is viewed to be un­com­pet­i­tive.

South Coogee was asked on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions to move play­ers or face the con­se­quences, but with play­ers un­will­ing to leave their mates and leave the suc­cess­ful, fi­nals-bound top team, the club ac­cepted the sanc­tion of a loss of points.

A WAFC spokesman said their youth foot­ball work­ing group’s re­search in­di­cated com­pet­i­tive­ness was linked to player re­ten­tion and two other junior clubs had been stripped of points for also fail­ing to maintain a com­pet­i­tive bal­ance this sea­son.

“One of the key find­ings of this group was that an ex­ces­sive fo­cus on win­ning at a youth level is detri­men­tal to player re­ten­tion and a critical fac­tor in youth drop-out,” the spokesman said.

“The WAFC there­fore works closely with clubs to en­sure that those with mul­ti­ple teams in an age divi­sion al­lo­cate play­ers to achieve a com­pet­i­tive bal­ance between those teams.”

Vic­tims of their own suc­cess... South Coogee JFC play­ers.

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