SOUTH Colac coach Stephen Hammond says he fears for the future of rival Forrest Football Netball Club.
The second-year Roos mentor said he believed Forrest recruiting heavily from beyond the Colac district was undermining its attempts to re-establish its junior program.
Hammond has become the first rival coach to publicly question Forrest officials about what they believe their club will look like in the future.
He said juniors should be clubs’ fundamental priority, and the league had to step in to ensure Forrest did not fail to field juniors “five years in a row”.
Forrest has no under-14.5 or under-17.5 sides this year, after fielding an under-17 side last season.
Hammond said he was worried about the impact a lack of juniors would have on Forrest in years to come.
“How is their club going to succeed if they’re not going to have kids?” he said.
“I’m not wording it as ‘get rid of Forrest’, they don’t have kids. But if they’re going to get players from Geelong or Melbourne or Ballarat, play in that league.
“If your majority of players come from there, join that league.”
Hammond said he decided to go public with his concerns after South Colac was one of the victims of the changed junior football draw.
There were no junior matches at the South Colac-Forrest fixture in round four, but the junior Roos had to travel to Forrest to play Alvie last weekend, when the seniors had a bye.
Hammond said he was aware the Lions were doing their best to attract juniors to the club: “I’m taking my hat off to whoever is trying to get kids”.
But he said not fielding a side – even if it featured borrowed players – was not an option.
His strategies to boost the junior ranks included recruiting seniors who had brothers, sons, cousins or nephews who could play juniors.
Pooling junior players with Lorne – another club battling at junior level – was another option that he said should have become reality this season.
“But what about next year and the year after that? You build your country clubs for your kids so they have somewhere to play,” Hammond said.
“If Forrest have to get players in from out of town every year, what’s the point?
“You’ve got to build a future. Every club has to build a future. There’s nothing better than winning a grand final with home-grown people.”