Saints reach record numbers ahead of historic reserves match
ONE of the biggest challenges facing AFL in the Darling Downs is the transition from junior to senior football and the introduction of a reserve grade fixture may be the solution.
Throughout the 2020 season competition officials had to come up with a completely new format that has included reserve grade matches.
For the first time in the clubs history, the South Burnett Saints will field a reserve grade team against the Toowoomba Tigers this Saturday September 5.
AFL Darling Downs competition manager Mitch Simpson said reserve grade offers another avenue for those players who don't want to commit to senior footy.
"It all depends on the number of club nominations and registrations heading into the start of the next season," Simpson said.
"We would love to see a permanent reserve grade competition, however our priority is to get through this season and see what the future of a post COVID season will look like.
"There have been a variety of competition formats in the past including multiple divisions with more clubs feeding into the two divisions opposed to a pure reserve and senior competitions."
One of the biggest issues facing clubs across the Darling Downs is the drop off of players from juniors to seniors.
A reserve grade competition would potentially boost participation numbers in both of those categories.
Simpson said having a reserves competition would most likely increase participation across the board.
"We have always struggled with getting players to transition from juniors to seniors and this would aid that," Simpson said.
"Any way of increasing participation is good for the sport across the region."
After the announcement of the reserves match in Kingaroy, the South Burnett Saints recorded their highest training numbers since the clubs origin back in 2012.
Saints president Daniel Clacy said a reserves fixture would be huge for AFL in the South Burnett.
"It would be amazing, by increasing the number of senior players that would also increase the number of juniors, volunteers and spectators at the club," Clacy said.
"This is something I have been pushing for a number of years and to see it finally coming together is fantastic.
"We have had really good interest from people so far, we had 27 players at training on Tuesday night, which is a club record.
"It would be massive for the development of the club and would hopefully allow us to get the junior club back up and running again."
The South Burnett Saints will host the Toowoomba Tigers on Saturday at Lyle Vidler Oval with the ladies playing at 12:50pm, followed by the senior men at 2:30pm and reserve men at 5pm.