HEATHCOTE Junior Football Netball Club will no longer be competing in the Seymour and District Junior Football League in 2017.
Instead the club will enter an under 12s football team in the Bendigo Junior Football League after being unable to field netball sides or an under 14s football team.
A league meeting on April 10 confirmed the move with the SDJFL unlikely to take the under 12 side as a stand-alone team.
Coach of the under 12 side Stuart Ferguson said he had never seen numbers like this in his 14 years at the club.
‘‘It was probably the best decision for the club and its future to relocate to the Bendigo league,’’ Ferguson said.
‘‘We won’t have any home games this season, but we’re banking on getting a few games in the future.
‘‘Hopefully we will be able to draw back a few of the Bendigo players and boost up our numbers for next year.’’
With no home games the club would be relying on sponsorships this season, but Ferguson said financially the club was sound.
The 149-team Bendigo competition was welcoming of the club and looked forward to working with it in the future.
Playing in the BJFL meant less travel for families and the opportunity to win some games — which was not as likely in the SDJFL.
‘‘All of the surrounding clubs aren’t fielding bad numbers,’’ Ferguson said.
‘‘We have kids leaving to other clubs and not coming back.
‘‘We advertised in local schools and further a-field but with not too much success.
‘‘Two of my own kids are playing at Heathcote and I want to be able to keep them here.
‘‘We will just get through this year and see how we go moving forward.’’
He felt with the options of other sports like basketball and soccer kids were less likely to take up football and netball.
The under 12s side had around 21 players (five of whom were over the cut-off age) and would field five girls this season.
Numbers have dropped dramatically since 2007 when the club had 35 players in its squad.
‘‘We had to make the best long-term decision for the club,’’ Ferguson said.
‘‘We had a few options but at this stage Bendigo is the best fit for us.’’
Puckarook Junior Football Club has gone into recession after not being able to field football or netball sides in the SDJFL.