The Circular Head community has been rocked by the news the Circular Head Giants will not return to the field in 2020 or thereafter.
The Smithton Football Club entered recession at the start of the year, electing not to field any teams in the North West Football League due to a lack of committed players.
Following the annual general meeting on Wednesday October 2, the club decided to formally finish up.
“Over the past seven months the board has been in discussion with former players, potential future players and other various community members,” president Nic Bellinger said in a post on Facebook last week.
Bellinger said all possibilities had been discussed, including a return to any league or association but that it was “abundantly clear” the shortage of players was growing.
“This is by far the hardest decision the football club board has ever had to make and has been very heartbreaking for everyone involved.
“People are passionate about their football and this decision will raise a lot of emotion and potential criticism . . . We all had hoped for a better outcome.”
Bellinger and members of the board were contacted by the Chronicle following the annual general meeting for further comment.
The club’s closure comes the year after its centennial. Throughout the decades, Smithton Football Club has donned the Pies, Saints and most recently Giants colours.
Dozens of premiership cups are engraved with the Smithton Football Club name, including the last Seniors titles is 1983 and ’91.
Past Seniors coach and player Matt Elliott was disappointed to hear the news, highlighting that family connections are what strengthen a club.
“I’ve been involved in the footy club my whole life,” he said.
“I’ve got a newborn I would’ve loved to have grown up around the club.
“It’s not just about us anymore. I’ve only got a few years left in me, I’ve got kids and I want them to grow up playing for Smithton.”
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Former Seniors captain Woody French returned to his childhood colours as a Redleg in the Circular Head Football Association this year.
With a wealth of Giants joining him, the Redpa Redlegs were unstoppable and undefeated throughout the season. Despite earning the premiership and the association’s goal kicking title, French would have enjoyed another season in the orange, white and grey.
“Obviously it’s the worst case scenario for Circular Head,” he said.
“But at the end of the day it’s a small town, having five clubs was never going to be sustainable.
“Something had to happen at a community level to change things, to change the structure of football in Circular Head. The writing’s been on the wall for a while now.”
Former Seniors player Josh Gale had to travel to Burnie to get his fix of NWFL this year.
In his maiden season as a Docker, he won a Seniors premiership. But while winning the flag was an experience, he doesn’t doubt he’d be back on board if the Giants made a miraculous comeback: “Absolutely, there’s no question. If your community has a team, that’s where you’re at.”
Some players weren’t as accepting of the club’s sudden absence.
Thomas Charles, having won a premiership with the Wynyard Reserves this season, said the lack of a local club is a big point of concern.
“Not having the opportunity to play in the highest and best league on the north west coast is a disturbing and awful thing for the development of youth footballers in the community,” he said.
“Unfortunately there is a lack of drive and commitment from people nowadays.
“Back when footy thrived if you didn’t go to training you just didn’t play.”
As it stands, Circular Head has plenty of talent ready to turn it on in the NWFL, including the likes of Lachlan Blakemore, who in four matches managed to take home the Penguin Under 18 Best and Fairest.
“I was pretty disappointed, I obviously played there all my junior career and it’s sad to see a piece of history in Smithton like that go down,” said Blakemore.
“But that’s just the way it is with the lack of numbers.”
Wayne Tuxworth and Clinton Mclaren have both transitioned their kids from local footy to an NWFL club further up the coast.
“I feel that as long as there are opportunities for juniors to play the best football possible then I have no issue,” said Tuxworth.
“We’ve got talent here, moving forward we need to make sure that there are opportunities for our juniors to make representative sides.”
Mclaren was similarly understanding: “The club probably could have went around and done everything it could to secure players from the CHFA for a year or two,” said Mclaren, though that would not be sustainable for the club nor local association.
“But there’s just not the players in the area to support all the clubs anymore.”
Solomon Tuxworth, Lucas Lardner, Brandon Stokes, William Young, Jakhan Wells, Austin Mclaren and Leahna Mclaren are disappointed to learn the Giants will not return to the field in 2020.