Grafton cubs: Geoffrey O’Connor, Ritchie Daniel, Dylan Phillips and Declan Baker get set for their first ever junior matches.
Grafton cubs: Geoffrey O’Connor, Ritchie Daniel, Dylan Phillips and Declan Baker get set for their first ever junior matches. Brendan Ray

Grafton junior league squad grows

THERE must have been times earlier this decade Wayne Phillips wondered what the point was.

Late night phone calls in search of local Australian footballers to make up the Grafton Tigers’ top grade squad for the weekend fixture would inevitably prove fruitless.

A decade on, the former Tigers president has left Grafton’s senior game in a healthier state and taken over the reins of the club’s new junior program.

He is hoping history will repeat itself with player recruitment among youngsters – and the early signs are good.

“When they first mentioned starting the juniors I was right behind it,” he said.

“I ran the (senior) club between 1999 and 2000 and back in those days we used to sit on the phone for a night to put a team together for Saturday.

“We struggled to get a team but recently we have had first, second and third grade so I think (Australian football is growing in the Clarence).”

An under-11 side in the North Coast league has already been assembled with teams in the 13s and 15s divisions in the pipeline.

This gives children like Phillips’ eight-year-old son Dylan a place to play - and stop the drain to Maclean’s sides.

“We have always run the AusKick program and we have been talking to Maclean about getting something up and happening,” Phillips said.

“We are hoping to develop a junior club here in town that can give juniors a place to play.

“We have about 12 (players) at this stage but we would like to try and pick up around 12 that would give us about 22 under the age of 11.

“It’s more about the fun for the kids and we are trying to bring all the young kids into it.”

With the Australian Football League’s (AFL) venture into the eastern seaboard looming large, now is the time for ‘getting the word out there’ in the junior ranks, according to Phillips.

“With the Gold Coast coming in (to the AFL) next year and Western Sydney the year after now is a good time to move forward,” he said.

“I’d like to think that we could find kids that come out of the woodwork.

“We are constantly talking to schools to get kids involved.”

Phillips argued his 15-week season is worth the $75 registration fee with most matches played locally.



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