By Sam Watson

AFTER TWO seasons lost to COVID-19 restrictions, some local football club presidents have admitted they are starting to fear about the future of local footy if things don’t change soon.

Before COVID-19, participation numbers were already dropping rapidly, in junior grades especially, and some believe the lack of results will make the situation even worse.

Dalyston president Andy Thomas said he’ll be very concerned if the interruptions drag on into next year.

“If you’re a junior or someone that’s looking for work and there’s no guarantee of playing football, because it could get called off again, why would you bother?” Thomas said.

“There’s so many benefits to sport and the COVID situation could put a dent in it. I think everybody has to work extremely hard to get kids back playing sport.

“They’ve been locked away for so long and it’d be easy to get downhearted about playing and focus on your PlayStation or work.

“Everybody in every sport has got to work hard, and parents probably as much as anybody are going to have to work hard to get kids out and about and socially active and exercise for the health of our community.”

Mirboo North president Steven Rogers said he was worried about other activities potential players might take up.

“The hardest thing is that people are going to find other things to do,” Rogers said.

“That’s why we were so keen to get a result this year, to make sure that it was worth doing.

“Our early indications are that players are still keen to play, but I would imagine the landscape is going to change a little bit.”

Inverloch Kongwak senior coach Ben Soumilas believes the missed seasons will inevitably have an impact on reserve player retention, but he hopes junior numbers can bounce back.

“I hope young people keep coming back to play, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it has an impact,” Soumilas said.

“It definitely could turn some older people away from reserves footy, but it could go the other way too.

“If footy netball clubs do it really well, we should be able to create an environment that draws people back to sport.

“I’d like to think now more than ever, parents would be encouraging their children to go out and join something.

“We’ve been sitting at home, locked up and on our screens for two years, and if we can create really good environments then you should be able to get young people in.

“I’m hoping it goes the other way.”

Phillip Island president Chris Ross said he wasn’t sure of the effect another cancelled season would have, but he hoped everyone would be more motivated than ever.

“I really don’t know, hopefully it makes them even more hungry to come back next year, players and volunteers,” Ross said.

“Because we feel as though we’ve got unfinished business.”

And Poowong president Ted Attenborough was thankful they were able to get half a season completed.

“Everyone that turned up throughout the year, seniors and juniors, were all keen to have a game of footy,” Attenborough said.

“So, I can’t see it having an impact going forward, I just think the uncertainty of whether the season was going to go ahead or not towards the back end of the season just made people sick of it.

“I think once the season approaches next year, they’ll be keen to get up and going again.”

Despite the second cancelled season, Thomas said Dalyston would be going into next year with an optimistic mindset.

“I suppose we’ve just gotta be positive and look forward to next season, as much as it’s a disappointment this year, it is what it is and there’s not much you can do about it.”