By Nick Blewett
Since entering the SANFL Junior’s competition in 2016, Lockleys FC has seen a huge boost in junior numbers, thanks to increased community involvement and clever club management.
In just three seasons, the club has more than doubled its junior cohort from 120 players, up to 260 pulling on the boots this season.
It is a particularly strong achievement given the club is geographically nestled among several of Adelaide’s strongest junior football clubs, including Henley, Flinders Park, Phantoms and Plympton.
This was one of the factors which has held the club back in the past, according to Mike Hannaford, junior coordinator at Lockleys FC.
“We are a smaller club and that has often meant playing with a 50/50 split of younger and older players in the same double-age group,” Mike said.
“With the north west being traditionally strong, our boys were losing by big margins most weeks in the (former) Metro West comp.
“Players in the past have played for us for a few years before moving to these other clubs.”
However, the club has narrowly managed to keep its most recent teams together and so set about building up involvement with the local schools to make sure teams stay full – right from the start.
“We’ve built from the ground up, and thanks to the finer division structure in SANFL Juniors we are starting to compete well,” he said.
Lockleys FC held come and try days, one featuring members from the Adelaide Crows AFLW team, including ex-Lockleys player Ebony Marinoff, who played in a boys’ team in her youth.
These events have helped the club form two junior girls’ teams in as many years.
“We’ve had a lot of mums from the club spread the word to local schools, they’ve been great advocates for the footy club,” he said.
Some improved budgeting and resource management had helped to accommodate the rise in participation, with the committee also broadening to be “all hands-on deck”.
Providing every new junior to the club with a Lockleys FC-branded hooded jumper upon signup has proved a popular initiative, and guernseys are now completely funded through sponsors.
A new website, currently under development, will be a new marketing tool to assist with promotion.
“We’ll be hosting our own website which will help improve communication with all the new juniors,” Mike said.
On the field, the club moves from strength to strength as it grows in numbers.
“We’ve closed the gap with our seniors – the U16s has had a senior player coach them for three years now,” he said.
“By meeting together and discussing the best practice, we’ve improved our coaching, and it’s allowed for a good pollination of ideas.
“We went from eight teams to 14 but looking ahead I’d really love to see us get to the 50 mark of junior girls, registered and playing.”
This season, Lockleys is particularly proud to have entered its U12s team in division one.
“Four years ago, these boys all started together in under 8s and have reached a new high standard.”
To help accommodate its growth, Lockleys FC will also soon benefit from an upgrade to its facilities, due for completion by the end of this year.
The new two-storey community complex will host the football club alongside local tennis, soccer and baseball clubs.