The closure of a Riverland football and netball club after more than a century has prompted calls for struggling clubs to consider mergers to protect the future of regional competitions.

Key points:

  • Lyrup’s football and netball clubs fold after failing to recruit players for this season
  • Coach John Kindness says players lost their motivation after last year’s season was suspended due to COVID-19
  • Riverland Football League president Shane Uren is urging struggling clubs to consider mergers

The 112-year-old Lyrup Lions Football and Netball Club made the decision to fold last week after discussions with league officials.

Lyrup football coach John Kindness said the club had been unable to successfully rebuild its team this year after games were halted last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the club had nine registered players for the 2021 season but only five regularly attending trainings.

“I’m totally surprised that this has happened. I’m pretty sure it was due to COVID because I had a team in 2019,” Mr Kindness said.

Lyrup football club celebrates after winning the 2015 premiership in the Riverland Independent Football Club League.(

Supplied: Grant Schwartzkopff


‘I was really pumped for the season’

Lyrup’s football team won 12 premierships, including the first ever Murray Football Association flag in 1909 and, most recently, a Riverland Independent Football League title in 2015.

In 2019 it finished fifth, just missing out on a finals berth.

Mr Kindness, who joined Lyrup this year, said he had high hopes for the team and was disappointed to see the club fold.

“I was really pumped for the season 21, the team in 19 were halfway up the ladder, they obviously had talent to go on with,” he said.

“It’s one of the oldest clubs in the comp.”

The Lyrup Lions was formed in 1909 and was a founding member of the Murray Football Association, which later became the Riverland Football League (RFL).

The football club competed in the Riverland Independent Football League, one of two divisions administered by the RFL, while the netball team played in the Riverland Independent Netball League.

The Lyrup netball club has also folded after not playing in 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.(

Supplied: Grant Schwartzkopff


Fold or merge debate

Lyrup has joined the likes of Moorook-Kingston, Gerard and East Murray as clubs to have folded in the Riverland Independent League competition.

Riverland Football League president Shane Uren said the decision to fold the Lyrup club was not unexpected and was due to lack of players and volunteers.

He said other clubs in the region were in similar situations and that mergers needed to be considered to avoid more clubs folding and to protect the local competitions.

“Unfortunately they [Lyrup] are not the only ones that are struggling,” Mr Uren said, adding that many clubs and even leagues had been forced to close in SA in the past 150 years.

“It’s nothing new, it’s just unfortunate that we’ve got one happen this year and a couple that are pretty close to possibly seeing the same thing in the next few years.

“People have to probably look at what’s better, a fold situation or a merge situation. These are things we are going to have to try and work through with numerous football clubs throughout the region over the next few years.