TWO Western District football-netball clubs are taking a proactive approach to their futures, opening official discussions about a possible merger as they navigate a changing landscape.
Terang Mortlake and Kolora-Noorat released a joint statement to members on Thursday night informing them of the decision to consider their options.
Bloods president Matt Clarke and Power counterpart Martin Wynd, when speaking to The Standard, cited a dwindling population and strain on volunteers as areas of concerns for their clubs which play in the Hampden and Warrnambool and District leagues respectively.
"We're realistically one community - we're people who have worked together, gone to school together, played cricket at the same clubs, played basketball and yet we're two different (football-netball) clubs," Clarke said.
"Multiple family members cross back and forward. A fair majority have been involved at both clubs at some point in time. I spent a lot of time involved at Kolora-Noorat and Martin has played in a reserves premiership at Terang Mortlake.
"We are one community and if we continue the way we are, it actually ends up being divisive because we're trying to draw from the same pool of players. You have to draw a line in the sand and say 'now is the time we have to be proactive'.
"It's just come to a head this year - at both clubs the volunteers, the players, everyone is fatigued and on edge. It is tough going."
Clarke said no decisions had been made but it was imperative both clubs were open-minded.
"We have formed a working party or discussion group for want of a better word. We'll continue to liaise with our stakeholders," he said.
"We have another meeting pencilled in for about a month's time to start to put some of the nitty gritty things on the table. The process could be short or over a considerable amount of time. We'll start to go through that process now about whether a combined club is viable and achievable."
The two clubs - themselves borne out of changes - have been successful in their competitions. Terang Mortlake has won three premierships (2004, '05 and '08) and Kolora-Noorat five flags (2009, '10, '11, '17 and '19).
"We both represent really passionate and proud clubs," Clarke said.
"We want to continue that - we don't want to lose our heritage but at the same time we're at the point where both clubs are still in good shape off-field and it's time where we get off our hands and be proactive and perhaps it encourages other clubs to see a need for change before it's too late, before it's at a point where clubs aren't salvageable. You can't change our history but we can certainly shape our future and that is what we're trying to do."
Wynd encouraged stakeholders from both clubs to share their thoughts.
"We want people to still be passionate about it but for people to be mindful of the future for kids who are not here yet or kids who haven't started playing yet," he said.
"We never want to lose the passion from both clubs' supporters, members or stakeholders because if something was to happen, we want them to all come together and bring the passion."
Wynd said a changing landscape was evidenced in a drop in junior numbers.
"Farms out this way are getting bigger and parents are now only having two or three kids rather than five or six like they were once-upon-a-time," he said.
"Kids are starting to play footy at 10 years old and might be playing two games a weekend from 10 years old and when they get to 15 or 16, they might have played 150 games of footy.
"By the time they get to 23, they're sort of sick of it. They've played 13 years of footy and might have played 250 games."
Both leaders also highlighted the need for permits, with juniors crossing back and forth, and a lack of numbers in the reserves as areas of concern.
Wynd, who described the potential change as "three communities coming together", conceded it was also difficult to build a list in this day and age with population dropping across the Western District.
"We have a lot of blokes under 20 and a lot of blokes over 30 and not much in between," he said.
"For whatever reason, the Terang, Noorat and Mortlake areas are not as enticing for people to stick around anymore, whether it be work purposes or just life - they want to get out and see the world."
Both Clarke and Wynd said playing in the highest standard competition available - currently the Hampden league - would be the preferred option if an amalgamation was to occur.
"You do want the higher standard of grades your players can strive for," Wynd said.
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