A group of football players try to take another player who is holding a red football.

Mallee Football and Netball League collapses as lack of volunteers, junior players drive teams away

A country South Australian football and netball league will cease to exist in 2023 after an exodus of its clubs to neighbouring competitions.

The Mallee Football and Netball League (MFNL) is located in the east of the state and is comprised of six teams from the region’s farming communities.

It was formed in 1994 out of the merger of the Lameroo and Districts and Murraylands football leagues and includes clubs that trace their lineage back more than a century. 

The future of the league was thrown into question in July when one club, Border Downs-Tintinara, announced it would merge with the neighbouring Meningie Football and Netball Club and move to the River Murray Football League, based in Murray Bridge. 

In the past week, more have clubs announced they will leave the MFL for other leagues, with members Karoonda and Peake announcing they will amalgamate and move to the River Murray Football League on Friday morning. 

Earlier this week, the Murray Valley Football and Netball League confirmed it had accepted an application from Murrayville to join its competition for its inaugural year in 2023

Lameroo and Pinnaroo are the only two clubs left as members of the Mallee Football League.(ABC Riverland: Sam Bradbrook)
A sign that says Pinaroo, the hub of the Mallee.
The town sign at Pinnaroo in SA’s Mallee region. (ABC Riverland: Sam Bradbrook)

Only two clubs, Pinnaroo and Lameroo, remain as MFL member clubs. 

League president Ken Schutz told ABC Riverland on Friday the exodus means there’s no way the MFNL can continue in 2023 or beyond and he’s disappointed some clubs didn’t try harder to keep the competition alive. 

“The biggest disappointment is we weren’t able to go out with a bang,” he said. 

“We had the grand final and it was a brilliant day in Karoonda who put on a great show and the amount of people out there was amazing.

“But we couldn’t say, ‘This is our last grand final’ because the clubs hadn’t made their decision yet. We couldn’t celebrate the Mallee league.”

Declining volunteers, juniors, behind collapse 

Mr Schutz says the respective committees of Pinnaroo and Lameroo will meet in the near future to determine their plans for 2023.

He added declining volunteers and junior player numbers across the league were behind the clubs’ decisions to leave.

A man wearing a blue and red football jumper holding onto a football.
The exodus of clubs from the MFNL has forced league officials to concede it won’t exist in 2023. (Supplied: Lesley Wisneske)

In a statement on the Karoonda Football and Netball Club Facebook page to announce its departure from the MFNL, the club said its priority was providing sport to the community for future generations. 

“We have listened to our members and we are pursuing the direction that is ultimately right for our club members, players and local communities,” the statement read.

“Sport is vital and the life blood of our district; it drives our physical and social wellbeing and provides opportunities for our broader community to feel a sense of belonging.” 

The Karoonda, Peake and Murrayville Football and Netball Clubs and the SA National Football League have been contacted for comment. 

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