By Matt Fotia
Under Nine Football will have a different look across the AFL Outer East in 2020 with a number of changes coming into the youngest form of organised football in the region, with a new day, new team sizes and more games.
The first eight rounds of the 2020 Under Nine season will be played on Friday evenings, with each side playing two matches, one at 5:30pm and one at 6:30pm with an expected 7:30pm finish for all sides.
Four venues will host games each round, with four teams at each venue, playing games across two modified sized grounds during these time slots.
Under Nines will return back to Sunday mornings on the 14th of June as the winter conditions come further into effect and make Friday evenings untenable.
Junior Operations Coordinator Andy Gibbons explained these changes by referencing the success in other leagues.
“We’ve seen this move to a weekday evening work well for other leagues, including AFL Goldfields, and we experienced plenty of success with our Friday Footy Frenzy last season,”
“We are hoping to create a fun family carnival atmosphere, which will also see our Under Nine players play in more games of football.”
These rounds will see two geographically aligned groups, the Hills and Valleys, which will decrease travel time for all players, volunteers and families involved.
The Hills group involves Belgrave, Emerald, Gembrook-Cockatoo, Monbulk, Mount Evelyn, Olinda Ferny Creek and Upwey-Tecoma. Whilst, Healesville, Seville, Wandin, Wesburn, Woori Yallock, Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction make up the Valleys group.
There will also be smaller team sizes in 2020, with a maximum of 12 players per team on the field at any time, with a minimum of nine.
Mr Gibbons explained that this move has multiple benefits for the players.
“By having smaller team sizes there is more chance of clubs having multiple sides,”
“For example if a club had 25 Under Nines registered in previous years they would only be able to field one side and it would see a number of players miss out on a large percentage of the action,”
“With 12 a side, this club could now field two Under Nine sides, with all players having increased game time, increased probability of involvement in the game, a higher chance of development and an increased likelihood of continuing on with their football in the years to come.”
Mr Gibbons went on to explain that the number one aim of the AFL Outer East Junior Program is to make sure all players develop a great love for the game of Aussie Rules Football, which is best achieved via multiple opportunities to participate.
“We want Under Nines to be the start of a lifelong love of the game for each of these players, and we feel that by offering a more appealing time slot and more opportunity to be involved in games, that we will see more of these kids play junior football and senior football for years to come.”