It’s been an interesting week for sport in Wagga, but punters would do well to keep an eye on the issues currently facing soccer in the region.
On Wednesday, The Daily Advertiser broke the news that the Council of Clubs – a representative body comprising of Football Wagga club presidents and delegates from across the region – had successfully put forward a motion to end dual registrations for players in 2019.
Now, it’s important to break down exactly what’s happened in the past week, who it impacts, and what the ramifications will be for the 2018 season.
What is dual registration?
Simply put, dual registration allows players to sign on with both their local Football Wagga club and Wagga City Wanderers, the city’s representative side.
In previous seasons, players have been permitted to represent both their club and Wanderers with a series of provisions; namely, that they prioritise Wanderers fixtures and refrain from playing in the Football Wagga finals.
The issue has been central to much debate since Wanderers’ inception in 2014 and this week came to the fore when Council of Clubs spokesperson and Wagga United president Ian Hardinge revealed a motion to scrap dual registration had been moved and subsequently passed by a non-unanimous majority.
Now, players will have to choose between club duties and pursuing higher honours.
So, why is this a big deal?
Short answer – because not everyone is on board.
Two Football Wagga clubs have voiced their concerns over the recent decision to end dual registration, arguing the move will negatively impact teams from smaller regional areas.
Hardinge said the decision was a welcome one that should “eliminate a whole lot of headaches for coaches and administrators”, but not everyone is convinced.
Cootamundra Strikers president Wally Parkinson said he wasn’t in favour of scratching dual registration.
“We would’ve preferred to keep it, definitely, but there’s not much point worrying about it now,” Parkinson said.
“We didn’t have any dual registered players last year but we were looking at one guy this year and that won’t happen now.”
Parkinson nevertheless said he wouldn’t be dwelling too long on the decision.
“I think it’d be nice to have that open but we’re the kind of club that just gets on with it.
“It was voted down and that’s it, really.”
Others, like Young Lions president Paul Cameron, aren’t taking it so lightly.
Cameron remains a firm believer in dual registration and branded its removal as “incomprehensible”.
“We definitely wanted to keep dual registration because we just haven’t got as many players as teams in Wagga,” Cameron said.
“In our position, we don’t have the depth but we still want our players to have opportunities to play for Wanderers and try playing at a higher level, so we’re all for dual registration.
“Guys like Patrick Hislop want to have that opportunity but now they can’t and I think that’s really unfair on the clubs.”
“I just can’t comprehend why this way is better.”
Cameron stressed his support for Wanderers and said their inclusion in Canberra’s NPL competition was a coup for soccer in the region.
“We’re still happy to put Wanderers first and we did that last year and I think it’s fantastic that Wanderers will play in Canberra next season.”
“But I think dual registration is the best way forward – it lets players go off and play representative and then those players can come back to their club and share that experience.
“We want Wanderers to go well but we also want the Pascoe Cup and all the other grades to be the best they can be.”
Who’s enforcing this ruling?
Ah, that’s the multi-million dollar question and it’s important to note where Football Wagga stands on the matter.
Football Wagga (FWW) – the region’s governing body for the sport – remains the administrator, however, president Tony Dobbin is taking care to highlight the separate roles performed by FWW and the Council of Clubs.
“The Council of Clubs is made up of club representatives and are not attached to FWW,” Dobbin said.
“The clubs have made an agreement among themselves that they won’t accept dual registrations and we have accepted what they have told us.
“It is not something that has brought to us in a formal process, but we have noted this decision and now it is up to the clubs to administer this agreement.”
Dobbin admitted the decision was “not FWW’s preference” and said there was value in retaining the dual registration structure, particularly at a junior level.
“Our view is that scrapping dual registration isn’t a good idea and there’s a few reasons for that.”
“We’ve always recognised that playing at Wanderers increases an individual’s skill levels and then when those players return, they can share those skills with their local club.
“Particularly through the men’s Wanderers, we’ve seen players come back with great ideas and great training techniques for their clubs and I think that now with 11 Wanderers teams playing in Capital Football, there could be the same opportunities for our juniors.
“But if there’s players who are still in school and they’re forced to make a decision on playing local or Wanderers, I think that’s tough.
“Sport provides a social context for these kids and if you start putting barriers in place, you might start losing players entirely.”
Dobbin also recognised the impact that losing dual registration could have on smaller clubs, who might struggle to retain players seeking a higher level of competition.
“There’s always that risk and while some of those small towns have a massive skill base for their size, they can struggle for numbers and they really do need to hang on to these players.”
Wanderers have also voiced their support for keeping dual registration.
In a statement, Wanderers director of football Brendan Flanagan said he was in favour of retaining dual registration and suggested such decisions should remain at the discretion of individual clubs.
“Over my years of presidency here at the Wanderers, the dual registration has always been available to clubs, while at the same time each individual club has been allowed their own discretion as to whether they wished to participate in the dual registration opportunity, as should be the case,” Flanagan said.
“Whilst understanding and fully respecting that there may be reasons for some clubs to elect not to participate in dual registration in any given season, we feel that dual registration assists in continuing to grow the game here, providing many opportunities for players and thus should remain as an option for clubs who do wish to use it.”
Dobbin agreed, citing a strong relationship between FWW and Wanderers and his desire to preserve it as such.
Potential for player fallout
In the wake of this significant ruling, dual-registered star Duncan Cameron is considering turning his back on representative football all together.
The Lions skipper has stated his intent to commit solely to club duties, arguing the Council of Club’s successful motion to scrap dual registration had forced his hand.
“I’m all for dual registration and if they aren’t having it, I’ll definitely be playing for Young next season,” Cameron said.
“I just think dual registration makes sense and losing it makes it so hard for Young.
“I think it definitely affects us and Cootamundra the most because we just don’t have the players and if people leave, we’re so much worse off.”
Cameron debuted for Wanderers last season and was eager to take on Canberra’s best in the NPL competition next year.
Now, an appearance in black and white looks increasingly unlikely.
“I wouldn’t take anything back from last year playing with Wanderers, even with everything that happened with missing (Pascoe Cup) finals, and I learned heaps playing with those guys.”
“The experience you can bring back to clubs is huge and I think that’s why dual registration is better – you can share what you learn.
“I just think it’s a bit unfair that you can’t have that option and it makes it a really tough decision for younger players who might want to try rep footy but still want to play club.
“I mean, do the (men’s) Wanderers really have a club without the Pascoe Cup?”
Cameron also queried the longevity of the decision and wants to ensure that the verdict – if it stands – should be enforced so players can’t “chop and change” during the season.
“If it’s going to be dual registration, will players be allowed to jump from Wanderers to club or whatever if they get sick of it?”
“I don’t think players should be able to chop and change if this goes through.”
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Whether any further changes will be made remains to be seen, however, it’s clear this issue is one that won’t go quietly.
The registration process for FWW clubs kicks off in January and while the current verdict stands that dual registration will be scrapped, FFW, Wanderers and multiple clubs have voiced their opposition to the change.
Dobbin reiterated the importance of clarity, stating that clubs and families need to understand the process before making a decision.
“Clubs need to understand what to tell their players and coaches about how to register, especially families with kids playing.
Will the ruling stand firm or will the issue remain? Only time will tell.