By Christopher Davies
Thirteen children signed on to be part of AFL across the Darling Downs on the weekend, bringing the total number of registered juniors to 800 for the first time in the league’s history.
Numbers have been steadily increasing over season 2013, building on the continued growth of the past five seasons. In 2011, a record 644 juniors were signed on to AFL Darling Downs clubs, rising to 708 last year and now, 800.
New clubs – the Chinchilla SUNS and South Burnett Saints – have been paramount to this success, with the Saints fielding Under 8s, 10s, 12s and 14s in their inaugural year. Not since 2009 has a team from the South Burnett taken the field and the return is being welcomed with plenty of enthusiasm.
The SUNS have only fielded Under 10s and Under 12s, but for the town’s first football club every week is a stepping stone in the quest to bring the game to new people throughout the state.
“Auskick numbers have spiked in the past couple of years and the pro-activity of club volunteers to transition them to the club system has been key to the success”, says AFL Queensland Regional Manager, Keith Webb.
The Toowoomba East Stingers have been another key to the league reaching this milestone, recording an increase of over 65% in just one season.
The club went through tough times in 2012 when a shortage of players in their Under 14 and Under 16 age groups forced them to withdraw the sides.
The club has since seen a change in fortune, reinstating the Under 14 side and looking like returning the Under 16 side in 2014.
“These figures really show that the league is moving in the right direction” says Webb.
“The aim now for everyone involved with football on the Downs will be to consolidate these record numbers to try and get all clubs with a full complement of junior sides” explained Webb.
As the league enters the second half of the season with Round 10 this weekend, retaining these enthusiastic youngsters will be paramount to the league looking to break into triple figures in the next couple of years.
It’s still not too late to join your local football club. To get involved, head to the Clubs tab for more information or call the AFLDD office on (07) 4632 2994.