Mick Malthouse the latest to throw support at Wahgunyah footy club after 431-point loss

A growing number of AFL stars are lending a hand at local football clubs that are struggling to bounce back from the impacts of COVID.

The latest to offer support is three-time premiership coach and former St Kilda and Richmond player Mick Malthouse who got wind of Wahgunyah’s struggles.

Wahgunyah lost by a record-breaking 431 points in round five against Beechworth after 16 players were ruled out with COVID.

Wahgunyah young gun Tristan Anderson scored the only point for the team, while Beechworth had over 100 shots on goal, slotting 66 for a score of 432. 

It was the second time this season that the club broke the record for the biggest losing margin following a loss to Dederang only weeks earlier, in round one, by 358 points.

Malthouse will host the seniors’ training session on May 26 during a fundraising event.

Winners of a raffle will be given the opportunity to enjoy breakfast with the champion coach and player the following morning, and other entertainment including a Q&A will be held throughout the night.

Former Carlton coach Mick Malthouse will host a seniors’ training session on May 26.(AAP: Joe Castro)

Club president Darryl Hore said, like many clubs, it was feeling the pinch from dwindling player numbers.

“[Wahgunyah] is an area where the population isn’t growing and we do support four teams in very close proximity,” he said.

Mr Hore said the response after the huge losses and depleted player stocks was “unbelievable”.

“It’s fantastic. If we chose to forfeit then none of this [support] would be happening,” he said.

Draft dates locked in

The dates have also been locked in for former AFL legends to play a one-off game for struggling clubs across the state as part of a beer company promotion.

The Longwood Football Netball Club was one of those calling for more to be done after many were forced to fold as they struggled to bounce back after the pandemic.

Longwood, a small town of about 200 people between Seymour and Shepparton, has not won a game since 2019.

“We beat Ardmona by about three goals I think,” senior coach Mick Galvin said.

“It’s been a long time between drinks.”

man in red shirt and cap with hand to chin contemplating on football oval
Longwood president Rick Shiner says finding players week to week is a challenge.(ABC News)

Club president Rick Shiner said after overcoming significant financial debt, the club still struggles with player recruitment and the ongoing impacts of COVID.

“[COVID] is going to tear the guts out of any side,” he said.

He hopes the presence of Geelong premiership player Cam Mooney on July 23 will generate enough excitement to put the club on the radar.

“It’s just great to have exposure and have people talk about your club and people coming down to have some interest in your club,” he said.

Short-term relief 

After winning its second game for the season last weekend, North Wangaratta is hopeful the presence of St Kilda and Essendon Star Brendan Goddard in round 15 will maintain the momentum.

“It will be massive for the club,” assistant senior coach Chris Vaccaro said.

football players in a huddle
Lead contamination forced North Wangaratta off the field and resulted in a lengthy and costly land remediation process.(Supplied: North Wangaratta Football and Netball Club)

North Wangaratta club president Allan Ely also hopes it will have a positive impact on player numbers.

“Hopefully you get a few thousand through the gate and we might be able to steal some players [for] next year,” he said.

The club was without a home ground for three years after its soil was found to be contaminated with lead poisoning from a neighbouring gun club.

clay target club sign in front of netball courts
The local gun club backs onto North Wangaratta’s home ground.(ABC News)

Sponsors pulled out resulting in financial impacts, and the club was losing by an average of 200 points every week as it was scraping to find enough players to field a side.

Mr Ely paid tribute to the club’s members and volunteers, who he said were the club’s backbone.

“The reason we’re here now is because of our supporters, members, volunteers, and committee. Everyone got around each other,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here.”

Initiatives like these are hoped to generate more interest in community sport and bolster player numbers, but the clubs said ongoing support was needed for their survival.


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