Benalla Rovers Soccer Club is focusing on rebuilding as it launches into a new season.By Monique Freer
Benalla Rovers Soccer Club is launching into a new season with passion as it tries to rebuild a club that has suffered as a result of AFL’s popularity.
While the club had close to 70 players last year across five different age divisions, it needs at least 90 players to fill the teams it hopes to enter into the Albury and Wodonga Football Association this season.
‘‘This year the club is entering under-12s, under-14s, under-16s, reserves ladies and reserves mens teams,’’ coach Craig McDonald said. ‘‘There’s the possibility of having a thirds and a girls team.’’
The Rovers have a rich history in Benalla, dating back to the early 1950s when the migrant hostel opened in town. The club was formed when a group of new Australians from the hostel formed a committee and began playing the game together.
Its first game was played at its former home ground behind the Benalla Aerodrome in 1954, before the the club relocated to its current premises at Churchill Reserve 18 years later.
Unlike the structure there today, there was no clubrooms, changerooms or shower, and the only income was made from the tin shed canteen.
Fundraising, donations and voluntary labour allowed the club to build its own canteen, clubrooms, function halls and field lights and with council having built changerooms at the ground, the soccer club has the facilities to develop into the large club it envisages becoming.
Last year, the club left the North East Soccer League in favour of the Albury and Wodonga Football Association, believing it would be a popular choice for members and junior development.
Last year also saw McDonald rejoin the club as coach, having played soccer for Benalla in the early 1990s before moving to Albury-Wodonga for almost 20 years.
Despite the club’s long history in the town, it is taking a dedicated and active committee to bring the club back into the public eye.
‘‘We need to get more players, and we need more exposure,’’ McDonald said.
‘‘Soccer is a great game for kids, and inclusion is for boys and girls equally.’’
McDonald has the reserve and under-16 teams’ pre-season underway, which he believes may be a change to what some are used to and help deliver good results this season.
With a long-term plan in mind, the club has already achieved one of its pre-season goals of securing more than one coach per team.
‘‘The kids are more likely to learn from that, and it becomes less boring,’’ McDonald said.
But obtaining more coaches is not enough to bring the club to where its committee wants it to be.
‘‘Our main aim is to try and build the club back up,’’ club publicity officer Michelle McDonald said.
Coach McDonald agrees the priorities for the club are to build up team numbers and to start playing the best possible football they can.
Registrations are open before this season begins on March 17.
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