Wagga City Wanderers will not run any girls or women's soccer programs in 2024.
The club cited changes to Capital Football's by-laws, as handed down by Football Australia, for the change.
Competing in the State League Women's competition this season, both first and second grade finished top of their ladders, with second grade completing the season undefeated premiers.
With just one loss on the books for the year, the first grade team secured the club promotion to the Premier League for 2024.
Wanderers vice president Tim Cooper said while the club was disappointed to have to cut the program, they remain dedicated to building women's soccer in the region.
Breaking the news to players over the past fortnight, Cooper said the decision was not made lightly, with board members, stakeholders, current and past players all consulted in making the decision.
"I've had one of the harder fortnights, proceeding this decision, trying to bounce ideas off people, chase solutions, trying to turn over every rock and make sure that we're making the correct decision," Cooper said.
"It's definitely not an ideal situation but unfortunately without that ability to grow our junior nursery of players, or being able to develop them, we're relying on players to come out of club and we know that puts an impact on club competition as well.
"It is a tough decision and it's not one that the executive took lightly."
Cooper said the two biggest factors in making the decision were insufficient player numbers in the Wanderers system and new licensing criteria.
While the club was able to receive exemptions for some of those license criteria for 2024, Cooper said they would not have met minimum requirements for the 2025 season.
"The biggest factor is given we don't have the youth program there, the committee looked at the players who had registered and trialled, while they're a strong group of players, the number of players and the ability to cover injuries and such throughout the season, it was deemed that it might get difficult throughout the year," Cooper said.
"Traditionally we've used under 17s to support that, and without those younger programs playing in Canberra, without dual registration or the ability to pull back from community clubs like the teams in Canberra can, it makes it a bit harder as a travelling team to accommodate those scenarios.
"We had 32 players trial which is great, but just the fact of people being unavailable, injuries, we're not able to accommodate that without a younger team to pull up from.
"On the licensing side, about a month ago we were notified that this year there was new licencing requirements that were going to be introduced and they were introduced in a very quick fashion.
"For next year's season we would need to seek a licence to participate within the NPL, the license has a number of criteria that the categories as either being required straight away, before the end of next season, or best practices but not required at the moment.
"We were told in a meeting with Football Australia and Capital that each of those categories over time would increase, and a number of those requirements filter around having the ability to have junior competitive teams which is something that without entering back into the NPL, we can't really support without impacting the local competition."
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Now working with players individually, Cooper said each athlete is considering what their 2024 season will look like.
It's expected that some players will look to join Canberra-based clubs to remain in an NPL level competition.
Meanwhile, there will be a huge boost of talent flowing into the local first grade Leonard Cup teams.
Players aren't being left entirely to their own devices though, with the club committing to the formation of the Wanderers Women's Academy.
Focusing on players in the under 20s age group, Cooper said the club will continue to provide advancement opportunities for players without the travel requirement.
The Academy will be open not only to ex-Wanderers players, but to all local senior women.
"We're really impressed by the work from Football Wagga in establishing the junior girl's Academy, Football Wagga have created a pathway for junior girls who exit out of our SAP program," he said.
"This year they've got teams up to under 16s, but what we've identified though is that there's a pathway for boys locally past that age to go into the Wanderers, into a different competitive environment, and so the idea of the Women's Academy would be to provide a pathway to a players at the moment we're thinking under 20s players, catch the players that come out of under 16 and we're hopeful in a couple of years that might grow into separate 18s and 20s, depending on the number of players that are interested."
While it's still very early days, Cooper said he'd like to see these programs, run both by Football Wagga and Wanderers, help revive the Wanderers teams for future seasons.
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