THE Hume Football League could be forced to play 16-a-side in its junior competitions this year in a bid to combat dwindling numbers.
In the wake of CDHBU and Billabong Crows withdrawing their under-17 sides, league president Merv Wegener said changes needed to be investigated.
At least four other clubs are battling to find 18 players.
“We have a junior coaches meeting next Wednesday and one thing we will be looking at is 16-a-side teams,” Wegener said.
“Clubs having to find eight less players a week could be a big help.
“Another option is going to under 16 and 13 age divisions instead of under 17 and 14.
“You shouldn’t rule anything out before having a close look at it.”
While the league can’t change the age divisions in time for this season, it may introduce 16-a-side competitions to take the pressure off some clubs.
CDHBU president Jarrod Hanrahan said he was bitterly disappointed Power couldn’t field an under-17 side this year.
“The problem is purely numbers,” Hanrahan said.
”We have had meetings with the AFL North East Border and the Corowa cluster and the numbers aren’t flash in our area.
“I can see it getting worse so we need to take that on board and start planning for the future.
“The only way to get around it is more mergers.
“Since Coreen and Daysale merged in 1995, 33 farms have been sold and not one new family has come into our district.
“They are just mergers of bigger farms and corporate farming.
“It’s disappointing but we have to look ahead and get the best possible result for our kids.”
CDHBU hasn’t missed finals in the under-17s and 14s since entering the competition and has been proactive by organising a bus from Corowa for training.
Wegener encouraged youngsters from Albury-Wodonga clubs with an abundance of numbers to play in the Hume league.
“There are kids in town who can’t get a game so it would be great if they could make contact with our clubs,” he said.
AFL North East Border operations manager Gavin Rendell said Tallangatta and Upper Murray league clubs faced a continual battle.
“Dederang-Mount Beauty’s problems have been in the media and competitions across the region are going to face similar issues more and more in the future,” Rendell said.
“Upper Murray clubs have had problems for five or 10 years and they make adjustments to suit their competition.”