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Mick Malthouse the latest to throw support at Wahgunyah footy club after 431-point loss

Despite huge losses, the Wahgunyah Lions have held their heads high and continue to field teams. (Supplied: Wahgunyah Football Netball Club)

A growing number of AFL stars are lending a hand at local football clubs that are struggling to bounce back from the impacts of COVID.

The latest to offer support is three-time premiership coach and former St Kilda and Richmond player Mick Malthouse who got wind of Wahgunyah's struggles.

Wahgunyah lost by a record-breaking 431 points in round five against Beechworth after 16 players were ruled out with COVID.

Wahgunyah young gun Tristan Anderson scored the only point for the team, while Beechworth had over 100 shots on goal, slotting 66 for a score of 432. 

It was the second time this season that the club broke the record for the biggest losing margin following a loss to Dederang only weeks earlier, in round one, by 358 points.

Malthouse will host the seniors' training session on May 26 during a fundraising event.

Winners of a raffle will be given the opportunity to enjoy breakfast with the champion coach and player the following morning, and other entertainment including a Q&A will be held throughout the night.

Former Carlton coach Mick Malthouse will host a seniors' training session on May 26. (AAP: Joe Castro)

Club president Darryl Hore said, like many clubs, it was feeling the pinch from dwindling player numbers.

"[Wahgunyah] is an area where the population isn't growing and we do support four teams in very close proximity," he said.

Mr Hore said the response after the huge losses and depleted player stocks was "unbelievable".

"It's fantastic. If we chose to forfeit then none of this [support] would be happening," he said.

Draft dates locked in

The dates have also been locked in for former AFL legends to play a one-off game for struggling clubs across the state as part of a beer company promotion.

The Longwood Football Netball Club was one of those calling for more to be done after many were forced to fold as they struggled to bounce back after the pandemic.

Longwood, a small town of about 200 people between Seymour and Shepparton, has not won a game since 2019.

"We beat Ardmona by about three goals I think," senior coach Mick Galvin said.

"It's been a long time between drinks."

Longwood president Rick Shiner says finding players week to week is a challenge. (ABC News)

Club president Rick Shiner said after overcoming significant financial debt, the club still struggles with player recruitment and the ongoing impacts of COVID.

"[COVID] is going to tear the guts out of any side," he said.

He hopes the presence of Geelong premiership player Cam Mooney on July 23 will generate enough excitement to put the club on the radar.

"It's just great to have exposure and have people talk about your club and people coming down to have some interest in your club," he said.

Short-term relief 

After winning its second game for the season last weekend, North Wangaratta is hopeful the presence of St Kilda and Essendon Star Brendan Goddard in round 15 will maintain the momentum.

"It will be massive for the club," assistant senior coach Chris Vaccaro said.

Lead contamination forced North Wangaratta off the field and resulted in a lengthy and costly land remediation process. (Supplied: North Wangaratta Football and Netball Club)

North Wangaratta club president Allan Ely also hopes it will have a positive impact on player numbers.

"Hopefully you get a few thousand through the gate and we might be able to steal some players [for] next year," he said.

The club was without a home ground for three years after its soil was found to be contaminated with lead poisoning from a neighbouring gun club.

The local gun club backs onto North Wangaratta's home ground. (ABC News)

Sponsors pulled out resulting in financial impacts, and the club was losing by an average of 200 points every week as it was scraping to find enough players to field a side.

Mr Ely paid tribute to the club's members and volunteers, who he said were the club's backbone.

"The reason we're here now is because of our supporters, members, volunteers, and committee. Everyone got around each other," he said.

"If it wasn't for them we wouldn't be here."

Initiatives like these are hoped to generate more interest in community sport and bolster player numbers, but the clubs said ongoing support was needed for their survival.

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Dive Deeper:
‘AFL players are concerned’: how the black summer fires spurred Tom Campbell to act on climate change
Training indoors as bushfires raged forced the St Kilda ruckman to re-evaluate football’s role in the climate crisis
Which locations have provided the AFL with the most talent and the best players?
From Warrnambool to Wangaratta, Dartmoor to Darwin, and Glenelg to Glenorchy, AFL players learn their trade in all corners of…
AFL grants exemption to 14-year-old Victorian girl to play footy with boys in mixed comp
After missing four games, Abby took to the footy oval for the first time this season after the AFL granted…
Leon Cameron resigns as GWS coach, ending nine-year tenure at AFL club
It's the first coaching change of the 2022 AFL season as Leon Cameron announces his resignation as the man in…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Cats expect key duo to make AFL returns
Geelong coach Chris Scott expects captain Joel Selwood and ruckman Rhys Stanley to return from injury for their AFL clash…
Sydney smash Essendon as Bombers crash to new low at SCG, St Kilda make a statement against Geelong
The Sydney Swans pile the pain on Essendon as the Bombers turn in one of their meekest showings of the…
Get all your news in one place