9 April, 2024

HDFNL ready for season opener on Saturday

When the 2024 Horsham and District Football Netball League (HDFNL) season gets underway this Saturday, it will bring a couple of changes.

By Chris Graetz

Edenhope Aplsey have lost all but one from their premiership team from last year.
Edenhope Aplsey have lost all but one from their premiership team from last year.

Firstly, due to the amalgamation between Jeparit Rainbow Storm and Southern Mallee Giants, the league now has 11 teams which means the bye comes back for the first time in several years.

Rosemary Langley, Chairperson of the HDFNL said that it won't impact teams.

"We are still having one league bye for the King's Birthday, and every club will have two other byes, but I don't think many clubs will be concerned by that," Langley said.

Secondly, there is a new Under 11s competition. The league has wanted this introduction for many years.

There won't be any scoring or premiership points and the competition is there to bridge the gap between Auskick and the Under 14s.

"Wimmera Football Netball League has had the under 12s for a couple of years and we found out our kids were missing out," Langley said.

"We believed the under 11s would be a better fit for our league and the main reason behind it was to keep kids and their families at the club and have a pathway through.

"We can start getting games under their belts at a suitable age group and we are really happy that the majority of clubs have come on board."

Due to player availability, Harrow Balmoral and Natimuk won't have an under 11s side.

A rule handed down by the AFL changing the bottom age in the Under 14s years old means 11-year-olds can't play in the U14's.

Langley said it is disappointing and other clubs are also disappointed by the ruling.

"If they had given us notice that this would be a thing we could have planned for it," Langley said.

"For 11-year-olds to now play under 14s, they would need to apply to the board and we will have to go through each case individually and it has been unsettling for everyone involved.

"AFL Marsh Insurance needs to sign off on any application. What the AFL don't realise is it may work in metropolitan football, but at grassroots level, it doesn't fit us as we don't have as many children."

The other rule that is introduced is that if you are not turning 16 this year you won't be able to play senior football. That is also problematic for the league.

An example is if that was introduced two years ago, Frederick Frew wouldn't have been able to play senior football, nor would Alby Kingston and it wouldn't have been good for their development.

The clubs, however, can apply to the HDFNL board to get an exemption to that rule, but there is a process behind it and it means more work for the HDFNL which they are not equipped for.

"We don't want this. We are only volunteers," Langley said.

"The way that this has been handed down by the AFL isn't good. There has been no real direction and even our regional manager had no idea about these new protocols.

"The kids and clubs are suffering too and for it to be brought in only a few weeks out of the season."

The league has also brought in Travis Switzer from 'weculturevate' to facilitate health checks at clubs.

Travis will ring all the clubs and Zoom/meets with them where he asks them questions about how they are travelling and what their ups and downs are and also positives.

He liaises with the AFL and he gives feedback and will help with strategic plans moving forward.

Travis will seek to assist clubs to enhance their professionalism and grow participation.

In netball, rolling substitutions have been brought in. Players will tag each other and rotate on and off and won't need to wait for a stoppage in play.

Langley said it would be great for the juniors and has urged all clubs to work with it.

"It's a new concept which I think is great for the league," Langley said.

"It will help in juniors as they have more players and they won't be sitting on the bench a lot and will feel a part of the game.

"There will be a teething problem to start with like every new thing, but the clubs have received it well and I hope everyone can work with it and we may tweak it as we go along."

Finally, the league will shortly decide on all ground selected by finals. Last year the league made a shock push to let a club host the Grand Final instead of the Horsham City Oval and it was rewarded to Noradjuha Quantong.

Following the success, when asked if it will go to a club again, Langley was tight- lipped.

"We are working on who is hosting finals now," Langley said.


On the eve of the Horsham and District Football Netball League season, Taylors Lake and Stawell Swifts have proposed a merger for their U17s teams.

Taylors Lake president Stuart Hall said they have been thinking about merging their juniors for a while but said the new rule the AFL brought in three weeks ago about bottom ages, forced their hand.

"It was a deciding factor. We could have pushed through some of the younger kids but we can't do that now," Hall said.

"We were thinking about it and had the feelers out for a while so it wasn't the only reason, but it contributed.

"It means kids will be guaranteed a game now and be competitive. We are pioneering a new concept and someone had to go first and I am pleased it was us."

Swifts president Peta Folkes said it is only a 12-month proposal and the main aim was to get players out on the football field.

"We wanted kids to play a few games and the new rules also influenced things," Folkes said.

"We want to look after our players and they will be able to build good sportsmanship playing for another team and helping their club and another club out for the season."

HDFNL Chair Rosemary Langley didn't comment but did say the board was talking about it at their meeting held Monday night and more information will be available in the coming days.


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