By Ben Pollard
The SMJFL Under 17s may have noticed an unfamiliar team skulking around the place this season.
That team is the Narre North Foxes and the Foxes have come to the SMJFL from the South East Juniors league (SEJ).
When the SEJ Under 17 competition collapsed less than a week before Round 1 was due to commence, the Foxes were very suddenly hunting for a new home.
The club’s president Mark McGregor said the situation was enough to have him “pulling my hair out for the majority of the week”.
“This particular team – probably 20 of these kids – has played their junior football together since U10s,” he said. “The consensus from the boys was: ‘We just want to play our last year at the Foxes as a team.’”
Three other SEJ Under 17 teams were left in the lurch but found a league to play in, as they had ties to senior clubs in that league.
However, the Narre North Foxes is a juniors-only club and McGregor didn’t want to sacrifice the Foxes’ identity to affiliate with a senior club.
So, the SMJFL stepped in to help out.
“I think by the time we ticked the box (to enter the team in the SMJFL), it was 5.20 on the Friday afternoon,” McGregor said.
“The following afternoon I get a call from one of the mums in the team. She said: ‘Mark, how good is this league? They’ve already fixtured a game, it’s already on their website and they’re letting us play our first game at home.’
“So it’s not lost on people where we’ve come to – just finding South Metro for the kids’ last year of footy.”
And for Mark and his club, that’s what it’s all about.
“From my point of view, it’s all about a group of kids having a game of footy together,” he said.
From humble beginnings in 1994, the Foxes now field 14 teams – from Under 9s through to the Under 17s – in which kids can just enjoy a game of footy together.
The club built a new facility at its home base in Narre Warren North four years ago, which includes two floodlit ovals, and McGregor said the SMJFL’s visiting Under 17 teams will be impressed with the set-up.
For the record, Narre North has impressed in its one Under 17 game too, pushing St Peters all the way on Sunday at their home ground.
If it wasn’t for some inaccuracy in front of goal, the Foxes may have had a dream start to their time in the SMJFL.
But Mark McGregor is just happy they were able to run out on the weekend.
“While it (the SEJ situation) was really frustrating and obviously really worrying me, the end result has actually been fantastic.”
“At the end of the day, it all comes back to one thing and that’s the kids.”