Two Gore football clubs, Junior Wanderers and Gore Wanderers, celebrated their merger with club day on Saturday.
All the club’s senior games – including the women’s game, which is usually played on a Sunday – and some of the junior games were played at Hyde Park.
Gore Wanderers president Mel McKenzie said the two clubs had always been separate.
When she became president in 2017, she approached Junior Wanderers president Susan Dennison to discuss a merger.
“Going forward and trying to grow and develop football in Eastern Southland, it seemed silly to be two separate clubs,” McKenzie said.
Combining the two clubs should meant the younger players would mix with the senior players more, especially if the senior players coached or refereed the junior grades.
“I’d like to see the seniors more involved with the juniors, because sometimes stepping up is quite a scary thing. Being a junior stepping into the men’s and women’s grade .. it might not be such a step up because they’ve got familiar faces in the squad.
“It’s important for the seniors to give back to the juniors so the juniors keep the passion and carry on.”
The younger members of the club were very important.
“For us to grow football, we need to keep these kids keen and interested – they are the future.”
The younger players would still be known as the Junior Wanderers, but would be under the name of the Gore Wanderers Association Football Club.
“We’re one big club under Gore Wanderers AFC.”
The new club was one of the biggest in Southland.
“We have close to 400 registered players.”
Junior Wanderers’ Dennison said Gore man Peter Van Loon had helped to start the club about 12 years ago.
“He had started it because he had a group of kids that were coming through from the West Gore Club who were very passionate about football and there was nothing for them, so he started a team and from there the club grew,” Dennison said.
The club catered for the 11-16 age group and now had eight junior teams.
The merger would benefit the younger players “in terms of access to coaches and possibly managers [and] positive role models”, Dennison said.