Recent and upcoming JLT Series and AFLW games may be placing footy firmly front of mind for the residents of Morwell in recent weeks, but the local junior club isn’t resting on its laurels ahead of season 2019.
Morwell Eagles Junior Football Club president Chris Gaunt is determined to make the most of the added exposure that accompanies high profile games by running free skills sessions at local schools.
“Whether kids play footy or soccer or whatever we’re just finding there’s not a real lot of kids playing sport at the moment,” Gaunt said.
“We’re looking at getting more kids in the sport at all ages so it’s Auskick up to under 14s and youth girls. We’re not just focussing on the younger kids because we’re finding we’re losing quite a bit of participation at under-14 level as well.
“I love the game, I’ve played it all my life and I think kids can get a lot of enjoyment out of it.”
In addition to the junior club, Gaunt has sought and gained the support of senior clubs Morwell and Morwell East, including the latter’s open women’s team, with some assistance from local Sports Education Development Australia (SEDA) students.
The program focusses on basic football fundamentals – kicking, handballing and marking – with an emphasis on fun.
“You’ll see some kids that take to it quite easily but we want to try to get the kids that don’t play football more interested so we make it easier for them and as long as they walk away with a smile on their face that’s what we’re about.”
Gaunt has arranged activities with Morwell Central, Morwell Park, St Vincent’s, Sacred Heart and Hazelwood North primary schools, as well as Kurnai College’s Morwell campus and is expecting to engage nearly 1500 children.
Wednesday’s session at Morwell Park Primary School happened to coincide with a visit to the region from Collingwood players Tyson Goldsack and Nathan Murphy, who stopped by to add a little extra glamour to the program.
“It’s definitely huge [to have the Collingwood players along] because it will obviously generate a fair bit of interest around the town as well and you can tell by the kids, they just love it anyway but to have AFL involvement down here is pretty massive,” Gaunt said.
Gaunt and his team will be at it again on Monday, when it supports AFL Gippsland in running football activities at the JLT Series clash between the Magpies and Carlton at Morwell Recreation Reserve.
The club will be well-represented on the day, with the Eagles invited to form a guard of honour for the ‘home’ team.
With more than 5000 people expected through the gate, the football community will be hoping such efforts to harness AFL interest and turn it into local participation reaps deserved rewards.
Tickets for Monday’s JLT Series Match between Collingwood and Carlton can be purchased at ticketek.com.au