OLD Collegians’ bid to rebuild its football ranks will start at the bottom.
The club’s new coterie group, Once Were Warriors, has created a junior academy to keep its teenagers fit during the off-season.
The academy, which is also open to netballers, will include fitness and education sessions headed up by personal trainer Michael Ryan.
Once Were Warriors committee member Anthony Wright said organisers launched the academy at Old Collegians’ junior presentation night this week.
Wright said organisers hoped to run four blocks of five-week sessions, two either side of Christmas, starting on Monday.
“What we’re trying to do is have weekly training session for these guys in the off-season to keep them in the loop,” he said.
“It’s based on general fitness and lifestyle. Fundamentally it’s not just about football or netball, it’s about life skills.
“It’s for the betterment of the club and the betterment of the players.”
Old Collegians have endured a frustrating two seasons on the football field, winning just four senior matches in 2012 and none in 2013.
But the under 17½ side has played finals the past two seasons and the club is keen to usher the top teens into seniors.
The netball ranks, both juniors and seniors, are in good shape.
Wright said he hoped the academy would help Old Collegians retain young footballers and netballers.
He acknowledged some would challenge themselves in better-standard competitions, such as the Hampden league.
But there were others who would stay, provided the club could create the right environment for them to develop their skills.
“In the past, other clubs have had the wood over us financially, in terms of being able to attract players,” Wright said.
“Over the years we’ve had successful junior sides but we haven’t been able to hold on to the kids.
“You’d be crazy not to think they’re one of the most important parts of your club.”