Rovers back in senior action

Craig McDonald
Craig McDonald

AFTER five years in the soccer wilderness Benalla will field a senior men’s team in the Border competition.

The Rovers left Albury Wodonga Football Association in 2009 to return to its roots in the Shepparton league.

At the time one of its chief reasons was the fact it couldn’t field seniors.

But Benalla was unable to do that in the two years it spent in that competition, nor has it been able to do so since it returned to AWFA in 2011.

Coach Craig McDonald, who is also the AWFA president, said it was a Catch 22 for the club.

“If you want players to come and play football you have to have a senior team,” he said.

“We already have some talented players here, players more than capable of playing at the highest level in this competition, but we are under no illusion that our lack of depth will test the club.

“But the decision was made that we needed to field a senior side.”

Last year Benalla fielded teams in the reserves and thirds competitions.

“We had a group of 16 and 17-year-olds who played in those teams last year and some have developed to the point where they are ready for senior football,” McDonald said.

“How that plays out for teams in the reserves and thirds will be decided when we get a clearer picture of what we can put on the park.”

McDonald isn’t expecting to play finals but won’t take a defensive mindset.

“We are training to play, the idea is playing possession football, using the width of the park where we can,” he said.

The shift back into the top tier comes as the Rovers celebrate their 60th anniversary.

McDonald said Benalla spent almost 20 years at the city’s airstrip before the move to Churchill Reserve in 1972.

“The club was started by people in the migrant camps here in Benalla,” he said.

“In some ways we are seeing (a senior team) as a rebirth of the club.”

The season starts on March 16.