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.