LATEST reports from the AFL Goulburn Murray (AFL GM) show playing numbers across the district are on the rise.
More than 8000 participants were playing football in 2016, the majority being youth (39 per cent) followed closely by senior footballer (34 per cent) and junior footballers (25 per cent).
Female participants made up a further two per cent of the total figures and another 3330 participants were playing netball.
AFL GM region general manager Martin Gleeson said he was expecting numbers to drop in Auskick this year with the introduction of under 10s across various leagues.
‘‘We don’t see it as a bad thing at all,’’ Gleeson said.
‘‘It means we are getting more kids into clubs and with Auskick participants starting as young as five it’s important we provide an opportunity for them to play a more formal format of the game before playing under 12s.’’
Football and netball teams were both up in numbers in 2016, but Gleeson said he was expecting a drop off in the 17-18 age bracket.
Grassroots football will continue to be a priority with an AFL schools ambassador being placed in each school in the region and more than 24,390 school visits and clinics being run in 2016.
‘‘It’s an ongoing challenge for all sports where kids aren’t getting involved,’’ Gleeson said.
‘‘Our community engagement in promoting Aussie rules has been really successful this year.
‘‘We don’t normally have five big events in the one year like we saw in 2016 and we’ve put a lot of effort into connecting the elite level of the sport to the community.’’
AFL GM ran two community camps in 2016, an AFL challenge match between Essendon and Geelong, the national female diversity championships, and the Auskick launch at Echuca.
The volunteer base, which is the lifeblood of community football, reached an excess of 9000 people with the AFL GM working to relieve more of the workload on volunteers by creating more streamlined systems.
There was a need for more umpires to cover games with 267 registered football umpires in 2016.
The next step for AFL GM was a review into the junior structures across the region with a project plan already being put in place.