Mallee Football League vows to keep South Australian competition alive despite challenges

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A football league in a South Australian country has denounced rumors that it will soon fold, calling on the community to fight to keep it alive.

The Mallee Football League in the east of the state was formed in 1994 from the merger of two other leagues, but its roots date back to the early 1900s.

It is contested by five SA sides – Pinnaroo, Lameroo, Peake, Karoonda and Border Downs-Tintinara – as well as a side across the Victorian border, Murrayville.

Amid community rumors that 2022 will be the league’s final year, the committee took to social media last week to engage with the competition’s long-term future.

President Ken Schutz was candid when he spoke to ABC Riverland and said the league had issues to deal with, but still had a future and would not fold.

“It can change in the structure, the teams we have and the numbers we play with.

“I’m optimistic for the simple fact that the Mallee league is really unique in that it’s a family league.”

The league has had a tumultuous time over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the cancellation of the 2020 season and state border restrictions creating challenges in 2021.

Teen gamers in decline

Clubs had no problem filling the senior men’s and junior colts (boys under 13) teams, but filling the senior colts, including of players aged 13 to 16, was a challenge.

Peake Football Club chairman Dale Farley said it was becoming increasingly difficult to find players due to the declining number of youngsters in the area.

Mallee Football League leaders say there is still a future for the league, despite the low number of senior foals. (Provided by: Lesley Wisneske)

“I’m 35 now, and where I went to primary school in Geranium, there were 80 to 90 children, and I think there are only 10 or 12 now,” said he declared.

To ensure teenagers had a place to play before entering senior football, the league held composite squad matches, with players from different teams coming together.

“We just can’t let our kids play nines or 12s,” Mr Farley said.

League, SANFL looking for community thoughts

The league, along with the South Australian National Football League, have launched a community survey to ask the Mallee community what they think is the best way for local football to move forward.

This survey will also be rolled out to other domestic leagues in the near future.

“We need to get very good information not only about what our players [think]but our supporters, our sponsors and everyone who is involved with a club,” Schutz said.

“We want to know how they feel, how their club is doing and where we want to be in five or 10 years.”

Mr Farley said it was vital for Mallee’s local football league to survive.

“The people we have in charge of the league are passionate enough to do their best to keep us going,” he said.

“The Mallee football league chatter has been going on for 10 years, but we’re still fueling it.”

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