by Nathan Johnston

IT’S that time of year when many local footy clubs are hoping, magically, half a dozen boys will appear to play in their Thirds or Fourths teams.
But unfortunately, kids just aren’t turning up to play football like they used to.
Why not? What are they doing instead?
It’s a dilemma that would have to be one AFL Gippsland’s most pressing issues, and probably elsewhere in the state.
There are many theories.
The growth of soccer in South Gippsland in the past decade would be a factor, and it is great kids and families have more choice.
Another theory is that children are starting at a younger age, and are sick of it by the time they’ve turned 15 or 16.
In years gone by, under 14s was the entry level for competitive football in South Gippsland.
Now kids can start at under 10s, so by the time they reach the thirds they’ve racked up 150 games.
There’s also a fair bit of pressure to win. Long pre-seasons and training twice a week can kill the enjoyment.
There’s the social aspect, too. A local footy official recalled the days when training sessions were fun because that’s where you’d hear about all the shenanigans from the weekend. Now kids are constantly connected on social media, and know all the details before Tuesday night comes around.
There are probably many more theories out there as to why the game isn’t as popular as it once was for boys.
There are no simple answers.
Soccer’s here to stay and so are iPhones. Ditching under 10 and 11 footy would be a backward step.
If it can’t be made more appealing soon though, it will spell the end of some clubs.