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All Blacks netballers on front foot in junior rebuild

Aiming higher: Benalla All Blacks Netball Club is looking to encourage more junior participation, with Netball Victoria lending a hand. Photo by contributed

Benalla All Blacks Football Netball Club has been hard at work this off-season, attempting to rebuild junior participation in its netball program in preparation for the upcoming season.

The club were unable to field an under-15s, as well as an under-17s side in a COVID-affected 2021 season.

Rebecca Mudd, All Blacks netball coordinator, says numbers began to drop off as a result of the cancellation of the 2020 season, with a patchy 2021 also having an impact.

“Last year we had an interrupted season, so we weren’t able to get the numbers for a 15s or a 17s side, the couple of players that we did have, that wanted to play in the 15s and 17s ended up playing as development players, so it’s great to see them coming back,” she said.

Mudd said the club had been busy in recent months in organising clinics with Netball Victoria and Melbourne Vixens, in conjunction with local clubs and organisations.

“We’ve been doing some work with Netball Victoria, they’ve been working closely with us and Benalla Netball Association in doing some netball clinics this week and next week, in the hope to rebuild some of that participation in junior sport coming into the new year,” she said.

Mudd said the fall in player numbers had only affected the club’s junior grades, with its senior sides performing well last season.

“We had a really strong senior presence last year, we had three senior sides, which is what’s required in the O&K league, and two of three of those were bound for finals, and our third side only just missed out by one point on the ladder.”

There are now a number of different sports and recreational options available for young sportspeople, which had certainly had an impact, Mudd said.

But during the past year, through conversations with parents, the club found many had enjoyed some time off from a usually hectic sporting calendar.

“We had some feedback from some parents at the start of last year during pre-season, that the time off that they had because of COVID in 2020 has slowed things down a bit, children are a little less enthused, but also parents — they’ve got that time back, so there’s not that time commitment, and if the kids aren’t driving, it the parents aren’t necessarily pushing it as well.”

With the clinics running over the past two weeks at All Blacks netball courts and Benalla Netball Association, Mudd is hopeful they will have an impact on their numbers this year.

“We’re just keen for anyone that’s willing to have a go, there’s no pre-requisites, there’s no expectations or standards, we just want young people to come out and have a go,” she said.

For anyone interested in joining the club and giving netball a go, email babfnc3@bigpond.com