SIX inmates who play football for Beechworth appear likely to miss Saturday’s game amid a review into the program which allows their temporary release.
President John Thistleton has been in contact with the government and corrections authorities with concerns the reserves side will have to forfeit against Kiewa-Sandy Creek.
The club relies on two senior and four reserves players for numbers.
Mr Thistleton said the six local players had not been able to train this week as the program was put on hold.
It appears unlikely they will play, which Mr Thistleton said could have wider ramifications for the competition.
“At this stage they might be really hard to replace,” he said.
“We’ll do our best to put a side on the ground, but it will be a difficult task.”
The club has had a long-running arrangement allowing prisoners to be picked up from Beechworth jail and play, and returned straight after games.
Mr Thistleton wrote to Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Corrections Gayle Tierney on Thursday, noting the program “has been hugely successful for our club and for the prisoners themselves”.
He sought clarity about the review, and how long it will take.
Multiple clubs could be impacted if the reserves had to forfeit, Mr Thistleton said.
Tallangatta and District Football League manager Rex Gray said there had never been any problems with the inmates who took to the field.
“From my knowledge, they’re on their best behaviour on their day out,” he said.
“They get picked up and taken straight back to prison as soon as they’re finished.”
Mr Thistleton told the premier and corrections minister a reserves forfeit would impact more than just the club.
“Without our prisoners we are likely to have to forfeit our reserves game,” he said.
“This means that 40 young men in our community will miss out on a game of football because Beechworth couldn’t field a side.
“If nothing is resolved by the next week, then 40 young men will also miss out on a game when we play the Wodonga Saints.”
The club's participation in the prisoner program had made them reliant on it, he said.
Mr Thistleton said the changes were disappointing, particularly at such a late stage in the season, but he is still hoping for a positive outcome.
It's unclear how long the review will take to complete.
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