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

Football and netball country South Australia will cease to exist in 2023 following the exodus of its clubs to neighboring competitions.

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

It was formed in 1994 from the merger of the Lameroo and Districts and Murraylands football leagues and includes clubs with over a century of history.

The league’s future was thrown into doubt in July when one club, Border Downs-Tintinara, announced they would merge with neighboring Meningie Football and Netball Club and move into the Murray River Football League based in Murray Bridge.

More clubs have announced in the past week that they will be leaving the MFL for other leagues, with Karunda and Peak members announcing they will merge and move to the Murray River Football League on Friday morning.

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

A sign that reads
Lameru and Pinnaru are the only two clubs remaining members of the Malli Football League.(ABC Riverland: Sam Bradbrook)
A sign that says Pinaru, malli center.
City sign in Pinnaru in Malli region, South Africa. (ABC Riverland: Sam Bradbrook)

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

League president Ken Schutz told ABC Riverland on Friday that the exodus means the MFNL will not be able to continue into 2023 or beyond, and he is disappointed that some clubs have not put more effort into maintaining competition.

“The biggest disappointment is that we couldn’t come out with a bang,” he said.

“We had a grand final and it was a brilliant day in Karunda, put on a great show and the amount of people was amazing.

“But we couldn’t say ‘This is our last grand final’ because the clubs haven’t made a decision yet. We couldn’t celebrate winning the Mally league.”

Departing volunteers, juniors, behind the collapse

Mr. Schutz says the respective Pinnaru and Lameru committees will meet in the near future to determine their plans for 2023.

He added that the reduction in the number of volunteers and youth players across the league was the reason for the clubs’ decision to leave.

A man in a blue and red football uniform holds a soccer ball.
The exodus of clubs from the MFNL forced the league’s leadership to admit that it will not be in 2023. (Attached: Leslie Wisneske)

In a statement on the Karoonda Football and Netball Club Facebook page announcing its withdrawal from the MFNL, the club stated that its priority is to provide sport to the community for generations to come.

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

“Sports is vital and is the lifeblood of our county; it promotes our physical and social well-being and empowers our wider community to feel connected.”

Karoonda, Peake and Murrayville football and netball clubs, as well as the South African National Football League, were contacted for comment.

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