South-west football's blueprint for future on the way

AFL Victoria’s Western District commission will today start writing the long-awaited document which will guide the development of football in the region.

The six-member commission has completed preliminary work on its strategic plan with a view to completing it by the end of the football season.

General manager Lachy Patterson said talks with football leagues and clubs in the past year had identified ways to improve the game at grassroots level.

Patterson said AFL Victoria had issued an end-of-2014 deadline for the plan, although he wanted to deliver the document to clubs by September.

“That will have a key role in determining our actions for the next four years,” he said. “But certainly we’ll have an action list for the next 12 months.

“We’ve gone through an exhaustive process to make sure we get around to as many games, clubs, leagues as possible and introduce ourselves.

“We’re getting a grasp of the issues in the region.

“All those discussions and the commissioners using their experience and background will play a key role in putting that strategic plan together.”

Patterson said lifting the number of junior footballers and umpires was the most pressing issue football officials had to address in the region.

“The biggest issue that continues to stick out, no matter who you talk to and where we are in the commission area, is the number of juniors playing,” he said.

“It’s something we’re keen to look at closely and the same deal goes for umpires. Not just the number of umpires but the number of young umpires.”

Patterson said football stakeholders would have a chance to comment on the plan when the commission had completed its draft.

He said the commission, chaired by Deakin University professor Greg Wood, wanted as much feedback from leagues and clubs as possible.

“I think it’s important when we do have the document, it gives us another thing to discuss with them,” he said.

“We can actually talk specifics about the document and ask for specific feedback about the local strategies that might be in there.

“How they could be better or if there are any additional ones we could include. It’s a really exciting step.”

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