The Ballarat Football Netball League will delay its plans to change the junior age structure, citing COVID uncertainty and player numbers as major hurdles its youth competitions face.
Next season, the league will stick with its current age brackets - under 9, under 11, under 13, under 15, under 17 and under 19.
Late last year, the BFNL board ruled that from 2022 all junior competitions would return to even age groups - under-10, 12, 14 and 16.
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The under-19 competition would also drop back to an under-18.5 age limit.
Clubs welcomed the changes but lobbied for the BFNL to implement even age groups from the 2021 season.
Earlier this year, the coordinators of 10 of the 11 junior clubs - Bacchus Marsh, Ballarat, Ballarat Storm, East Point, Lake Wendouree, Mt Clear, North Ballarat, Redan, Sebastopol and Woady Yaloak - signed a letter to the league requesting special consideration to make the change to the age groups for the 2021 season.
Some clubs threatened to form a breakaway competition or willingly field teams that defied the odd age structure if the change wasn't brought forward.
At the time, the board conducted a second review of its junior plan and re-asserted its decision.
Late last year, the league said AFL Victoria guidelines did not provide enough time for the switch in age groups to take place.
In announcing that current age structures would stand, the BFNL board said they hoped to provide "some certainty and continuity".
"The existing 'odd' structure will continue through 2021 and will allow further assessment to be made based on the ever-changing world we live in," the league said in a statement.
"After consideration of many aspects, not least of which is club feedback and registration data, the league believes it is in the best interest of the competition to delay the change of age groups until season 2023.
"When the decision was made to change the structure of juniors in the BFNL, COVID had not yet appeared in our daily lives, and the disruption currently felt over the past two years was not envisaged by anyone.
"The board is committed to implementing a structure for junior football that will best cater for the growing demands of our competition and ensure the long-term viability of the BFNL juniors moving forward."
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