Chiltern Football-Netball Club is prepared to pay $12,000 to provide free registration for all of its junior footballers and netballers next year.
In an innovative move by a district league club, Swans officials have proposed to cover the cost of registration for all their 120 junior players across three grades of football and four grades of netball.
The generous offer by the club was initiated to help families combat the rising costs of living.
Many families are struggling to find the money necessary to cover the spiralling costs of registration, uniforms, merchandise, boots as well as pay for petrol to travel to training and matches.
Swans president Tom Lappin felt it was an important step forward by the club to help secure the future of junior sport in the local community of Chiltern.
Lappin said the growing trend of the declining participation of kids in grassroots sports could be directly attributed to the cost with some families having up to four children playing junior sport.
"We are lucky enough to have some great sponsors at our club, a loyal supporter base, a strong membership base, some very loyal footballers and netballers and a supportive local community all who want to see our club thrive well into the future," Lappin said.
"One of the issues facing many community sporting clubs across many sports, particularly outside of the major centres of Albury-Wodonga, is declining numbers of kids participating in grassroots sport.
"We believe one of the factors is the cost associated with playing sport.
"The VIC Government does provide Active Kids Vouchers but it is means tested and it's simply not enough.
"Some families need to find $1000 per child for their sport rego fees, uniforms, boots and merchandise per season, and some have up to four for five kids.
"As you can see, it soon adds up."
Lappin felt if the unprecedented move could convince 'just one kid or family back' it would be worth the substantial cost to the club.
"We are possibly the first club in our region to move on this and we are prepared to give back $12,000 in registration fees which helps cover our costs to register and insure the kids," he said.
"There are so many other options for kids these days other than to play sport, these options may not be as costly, nor as healthy or rewarding as team sport.
"So we just hope to play a small part in reducing costs to families and even if it keeps or brings just one kid or family back to football or netball next year it has served its purpose."
Chiltern will proudly field all junior football (under 12s, 14s and 17s) and netball (midgets, 13&Under, 15&Under, 17&Under) grades again next season.
But Lappin revealed it had taken a mountain of work behind the scenes, particularly in regards to junior football numbers being on the decline over the last decade.
The cost of living pressures faced by families also meant they were reluctant to travel outside the major city centres as much.
"We have some fantastic coaches in our footy department and netball teams through both senior and junior grades," Lappin said.
"The programs we have built at Chiltern promote the growth of junior talent with 18 former juniors playing in senior football premiership over the last two years and more again in the reserves.
"In 2022 our under-14s also won the premiership.
"Our club is a welcoming environment for kids and families from other neighbouring areas such as Albury-Wodonga and now it's free to participate as a junior footballer or netballer with us.
"So we hope to get more junior players and families on board who can enjoy their sport without the added pressure of registration costs."
All current and any interested junior footballers and their families are invited to attend Chiltern's junior meet the coaches BBQ and training night on Wednesday, December 13 from 5pm.
To inquire about playing juniors in 2024 you can contact the club via the Facebook page or email email@example.com