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By Russell Bennett

The Brooker boys need your help.

The Gembrook Cockatoo Football Netball Club is one of the proudest and strongest anywhere in the AFL Yarra Ranges competition, but it needs the next generation pushing through the ranks to keep it this way.

Brookers president Damian Kee has launched a last-ditch appeal to get a standalone under-18 side up and running for the 2017 season.

The alternative is stark – a merger of the under-18 players between the Brookers, and Monbulk.

“Firstly, a little history about our great club, it took the club nearly 100 years to play in second division (of the senior competition), which I and a fair portion of our current committee were part of, (and) which to some people was the demise out our great club,” said Kee in an impassioned Facebook post.

“If it wasn’t for a group of under-18s boys that stuck around to fight for the club that we loved so much, it may well have folded in the early 2000s.

“That same group of blokes – all be it a touch older – played many years later in the start of the three-peat of losing grand finals in Division 1.

“My point is that we all grew up playing footy together and formed a bond that to this day cannot be broken.

“It’s hard to explain but my memories of playing under-18s football with my Brooker team mates were some of the best times I’ve had and, still to this day, we talk about how good we were then and how good we got in the following years.”

Sadly, the Brookers aren’t alone in their desperate quest for more numbers in their thirds. It’s a problem plaguing under-18 and under-19 teams across the state – no matter the competition.

“I really thought the club would get a standalone 18s team up this year – all we need is five more guys to come back or join our club and we will be there,” Kee explained.

Anyone in the area interested in playing under-18s footy for the Brookers should contact footy manager Steve Pantorno on 0417 351 854. He will put interested parties in touch with the coaches.

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