JUNIOR soccer in the Western Region could face an exodus of players if Football NSW doesn’t reverse a decision to exclude the club from elite level competition for 2013 and beyond, according to Western NSW junior coach Robin Hall.
The Western club was shocked to find out its nomination to be part of the Premier League 2 had been rejected, instead placing it in the State League 1 competition, which leaves several of their junior teams facing an uncertain future.
Football NSW made the decision to restructure their competition starting next year and Western had applied to be part of the second tier Premier League, which would have seen them field a total of eight teams, from under 12s through to first grade.
However their inclusion in the State League cuts their teams down to just four, under 16s, 18s, 20s and first grade. The four younger grades would play in the much lower standard Association Representative League.
Western NSW Football have appealed the decision and Football NSW will meet today to decide on the outcome.
A statement by Western NSW Football said “While Western NSW Mariners are pleased to offer a higher league for under 20s and first grade than offered in State League to players in 2012, the club is extremely disappointed in the decision to effectively relegate the club’s Youth League teams in under 16s and 18s and not have an available option for the under 12s to 15s in State League 1”.
Hall believes sports like rugby league and AFL would welcome young players who, under the new system, won’t begin playing high standard football until they reach under 16s.
“The danger of this decision is that players are faced with the prospect of competing in a competition where the standard is much lower. Some kids will tolerate that and go through the motions but so many of these kids are multi-talented and they may go to another sport where higher standard competitions are open to them,” he said.
“This would be a massive loss to the sport’s schedule of the Western Region because we have been able to provide a high level for their young kids and now that is in doubt.”
If Western’s appeal is turned down, it could also have serious consequences for their agreement with the Central Coast Mariners which sees several of their players taken into a Mariners development squad.
It was announced late last week that two members of this year’s Western under 18s team, Jacon Tratt and Jayden Tumeth-McLeod, had been named as train-on members of the Mariners National Youth League squad, proving the previous pathway works, but Hall believes forcing the Western juniors to play at a lower level would have dire consequences.
“In each age group we have kids who are part of that Mariners development squad. They are talented players who play for us but are also part of the Mariners family. If our squads aren’t playing at that elite level from an early age, it would put them at a significant disadvantage when it comes to preparing them for those opportunities,” he said.
Hall is hopeful Football NSW will reverse their decision and allow a regional team to provide the opportunity for young kids to play at an elite level.
“The best case would be that they will realise how much soccer means west of the Blue Mountains and how much of a talent pool there is out here and realise they have made a mistake,” he said.
“There has been a similar thing in other states. In Queensland they found that their restructure excluded their regional teams and they were granted provisional licences which at least allowed them to keep competing.
“If this goes ahead, it would mean that people would have to move to give their kids the best chance of playing at a high level and that’s pretty extreme.”
The restructure of the competitions claimed another victim with Bathurst ‘75 unable to keep playing in the equivalent of the State League competition they were part of this year.