Northern NSW Football’s Junior Development League will kick off its home and away season this weekend with a new look and a new attitude.
The purpose of the JDL is to provide potentially talented players with the best possible learning environment through a specific Skill Acquisition Program delivered by clubs competing in NNSWF’s Premier Competitions.
The 2022 season started with two consecutive gala weekends held at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility, with the opening home and away rounds to start this weekend.
Zero Tolerance Policy
A zero tolerance behaviour policy towards abuse has been enacted this season to help ensure a safe and supportive environment.
The policy targets any abuse aimed at players, referees, game leaders, coaches, parents or spectators.
The policy is based on self-policing, with anyone witnessing behaviour that does not meet the standard encouraged to report it to their club in the first instance. If the issue is not dealt with then it should be reported directly to NNSWF.
NNSWF General Manager Football Operations Liam Bentley said the reason for the policy was simple.
“We don’t want any of that sort of behaviour at this level of the game,” Bentley said.
“We will have referees at 80 per cent of JDL fixtures this season as well as a significant number of technical advisors going to matches plus referee assessors and mentors. So we will have plenty of independent people on the ground as well.
“Our message to parents and clubs is that if you see something that isn’t right, call it out. If behaviour doesn’t meet the right standard then report to your club in the first instance if you don’t feel comfortable confronting the person. If it’s not dealt with then report it to [NNSWF] directly.”
Bentley said there was already signs of the message being taken on board after the opening gala weekends.
“I was there all day last Saturday and the atmosphere was amazing,” Bentley said.
“It was so positive. It was exactly the right type of atmosphere we want for kids to learn their football in.
“It was supportive and friendly. I didn’t hear a negative word in six hours. And it was noted by others as well. The hope is that this level of football should lend itself to a more supportive environment. There are no points, no league tables.
“We hope that message is getting through but also hope that good behaviour continues. We know it’s not perfect and there is a whole season of hundreds of matches ahead. But we encourage everyone to remember why they are there and the people they are behaving in front of are small children who they need to be setting an example for.”
The 2022 JDL season will also have a new look. Instead of fixtures assigned in sections, an entire season of fixtures has been made available at the start of the season.
While still aiming to give teams the majority of games at their competitive level, it is hoped the fully completed draw will make life easier for parents trying to plan their family life around football.
As well as the two gala weekends that started the season, regional gala weekends will be held once per month in Tamworth, Coffs Harbour and the Mid North Coast throughout the season. This will give more variety to regional teams and ensures they do not have to travel long distances every week. Metro teams will not attend every regional gala day, with attendance decided on a rotating basis.
“We’ve previously done fixtures for one part of the season then reviewed where teams are at and reassessed. But that was obviously harder for parents to plan,” Bentley said.
“Basically we’ve done the entire season fixtures while still trying to avoid the more advanced teams playing those teams just starting out in their journey along the JDL pathway.
“It gives the chance for the majority of games to be played at the right level with also games just above and below their level to give variety. Keeping in mind it is like v like, best v best.”
JDL is non-competitive and focuses on individual skill development and providing a pathway for potentially talented players to represent a club from the age of nine through to seniors at NPL Men’s NNSW, NPL Women’s NNSW or HIT 106.9 Northern League One clubs.
JDL also provides premier clubs with an opportunity to identify and develop players for their respective youth competitions as opposed to identifying players from under-12s community clubs.
NNSWF is committed to ongoing consultation with clubs participating in the JDL through the relevant Standing Committee and monthly meetings with Club Technical Directors led by NNSWF Youth Technical Director Kew Jaliens.
The JDL was introduced as the Premier Club SAP in 2017 following a comprehensive review of the local Talented Player Pathway. This included consultation with clubs competing in the Premier Competitions and local Member Zones.