WA junior footy players penalised for winning by too much

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Liam CroyThe West Australian
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VideoA junior football coach in Albany has vowed to step down after his side was penalised for winning games by too much.

Wins have become losses in a junior football league where the balance between participation and development has finally reached breaking point.

Coaches and parents are furious with the Southern Districts Junior Football Association for reversing the results of two games last month in which margins exceeded 60 points.

The SDJFA’s unprecedented actions were backed by the WA Football Commission which introduced a Statewide junior margin cap of 60 points in 2008.

Rather than reducing the official margins to 60, the SDJFA recorded the results as “forfeits” against the winners on the basis that they ignored the “spirit of the game”.

Mt Barker Bulls under-15s coach Terry Williams with players Seth Jones, Ashton Ballard and Kobi Williams.
Camera IconMt Barker Bulls under-15s coach Terry Williams with players Seth Jones, Ashton Ballard and Kobi Williams. Credit: Laurie Benson

Mt Barker’s under-15s side beat the Albany Kangaroos by 73 points, while in the under-13s the Albany Eagles beat Denmark-Walpole by 95 points.

The reversed results could have finals ramifications for several teams.

The coaches of the two ladder-leading teams are likely to retire at the end of the season because of the SDJFA’s decision and the way it was handled.

They said they did not receive a phone call from the SDJFA before or after they were stripped of the points.

Albany Eagles coach Russ Clark, a former Perth Demons player and chief executive of Peel Thunder, said he took offence to accusations he ignored the spirit of the game.

Mt Barker Bulls under-15s coach Terry Williams with players Seth Jones, Ashton Ballard and Kobi Williams.
Camera IconMt Barker Bulls under-15s coach Terry Williams with players Seth Jones, Ashton Ballard and Kobi Williams. Credit: Laurie Benson

Clark said he often made changes to his team in the July 22 game in an attempt to even the score. He would never ask his players to apologise for doing their best.

“Life isn’t always fair, life isn’t easy, not everyone is equal and that’s the truth,” Clark said.

“We could have beaten them by 40 goals.”

Clark said he felt bad for Mt Barker’s under-13s team because the reversal had forced them out of the top four.

While he supported the WAFC’s Statewide margin cap, he could not agree with overturning a result when a team had tried to avoid a blow-out.

He questioned whether high-achievers at school should have their marks slashed for being too smart or studying too hard.

Albany MLA Peter Watson and ACCI chief executive Russell Clark, the coach of the Albany Eagles U13s.
Camera IconAlbany MLA Peter Watson and ACCI chief executive Russell Clark, the coach of the Albany Eagles U13s. Credit: Laurie Benson

“I just think we’re bringing up a generation of kids — let’s call it the entitlement generation,” Clark said. “We’re saying, ‘Here you go, you walked the 100m but here’s your trophy.”

Clark pointed to the fiery online reaction that had been overwhelmingly against the SDJFA’s stance.

Mt Barker under-15s coach Terry Williams said he tried to keep the Kangaroos game competitive by giving some of his best players to the opposition. He said the SDJFA’s ruling was “farcical” and too far removed from the game he grew up with.

Williams, who made his league debut for Mt Barker aged 15, said he had been touched by the flood of support.

“I’ve had that many phone calls from parents from the opposition team saying, ‘We’d rather get beaten”,” he said. “I’ve had hundreds of calls. I’ve been pretty surprised by the support.

“I’m good friends with the coaches on the other side. They actually rung up and said they wanted to give the points back.”

We’re saying, ‘Here you go, you walked the 100m but here’s your trophy.

Russ Clark

It is understood the Mt Barker Bulls Football Club will appeal against the SDJFA’s decision.

Williams said the association had underestimated the backlash it would get from tampering with the national game.

“I think a lot of people are heated about it,” he said.

West Coast Eagles dual premiership player Peter Wilson said the SDJFA’s ruling made him feel sick. “Well that’s wonderful and from now I’ll just watch the Matildas,” Wilson said.“They’re going past the point of being ridiculous,” Wilson said. “They’re going to push people away from the game.”

SDJFA president Michael O’Dea said the association was trying to set an example to eradicate a “win at all costs” attitude.

“We’ve sort of had enough,” Mr O’Dea said. “We’ve been trying to communicate to our coaches what we expect.”

WAFC participation manager Troy Kirkham said it approved the SDJFA’s exemption request because it was in line with broader objectives. The commission would be “loath” to overrule a local decision.

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