BEECHWORTH is facing a chronic player shortage with the season just over a fortnight away.
The Bushrangers have previously relied on inmates from the Beechworth prison as part of the prisoner day release program to field both first and second grade sides in the Tallangatta and district league.
The Victorian Government suspended the program in August last year after the revelation that convicted one-punch killer Dylan Closter was being released from prison on a Saturday to play for the Rushworth Football Club near Shepparton.
The decision left Beechworth struggling late last season with the club relying on two senior and four reserves players for numbers.
Seven months later and on the eve of the new season club president John Thistleton said the club was in a similar predicament.
"We had a practice match the other day and were struggling for numbers and it's probably the reserves numbers that is the biggest concern," Thistleton said.
"We are still in negotiations with the Beechworth prison to get the prisoners back and there is some positive signs there which is good.
"There is nothing official though at this stage.
"I know our coach Shaun Pritchard has been talking to the director at the Beechworth prison and things are looking positive.
"Hopefully we can get an answer before round 1 which is two weeks away from Saturday."
The amount of inmates allowed to play each week is capped at four in the seniors and four in the reserves.
"Eight players each week is a considerable amount over the two teams," he said.
"Last year we only had two inmates good enough to play seniors and then four played in the reserves."
Beechworth have strong numbers in the juniors and have an under-17, under-14 and under-12 sides.
Thistleton was hoping the club could bolster its numbers after the cricket season had finished.
"Cricket is finishing so we need to sit down and work out exactly what our numbers are," he said.
"Hopefully we can get a bit of an influx there.
"I was talking to some of the other presidents at the league launch at Huon Hotel about a month ago and they said they hadn't been getting a heap of numbers to training which isn't unusual at that time of year.
"We have probably been averaging between 20 to 25 players at training."
Beechworth's numbers took a further hit after utility Brayden Carey signed as coach of Cudgewa.
Dayne and Tyson Carey also followed him to the Upper Murray club.
"We lost a few players when Brayden Carey decided to head to Cudgewa to coach," he said.
"A few of our others have gone to Wodonga.
"But we have picked up enough recruits to replace the players we lost."
Beechworth finished in eighth spot last season in the seniors with an 8-10 record.
The reserves fared slightly better in seventh spot, also with an 8-10 record.
They play Dederang-Mt Beauty in the opening round.
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