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A renewed energy for football in Waitaki this season has sparked an increase in player numbers.

Football Waitaki’s numbers are strong this year, with 35 children aged 4-5 taking part in the first kicks programme, and a further 260 children aged 4-13 competing in the Saturday morning competition.

Some club’s numbers were as high as 151 players this season, suggesting April’s Waitaki Football Festival attracted more players to the sport Football Waitaki president Twyla Kingan said.

Numbers could still be improved at Riverside and Meadowbank clubs, but overall, there was a good interest in football.

“Overall, the kids are loving being out there playing,” Kingan said.

“You can really see the enjoyment out of the players and their family members this year – it’s really nice to see.”

Secondary school team numbers were also good, and Waitaki Girls’ High School had a football team for the first time in several years.

It was pleasing to see people sticking with the sport, and Waitaki and South Canterbury football development officer Luis Paiva had been supporting secondary school coaches to continue to grow the game.

Paiva, who had a wealth of knowledge and experience, had been “awesome”, she said.

“It’s really positive for us as the governing body for junior football having somebody right there that’s willing to give us a hand with coaching courses and helping us out setting up the centralised programmes.

“It’s nice that we can see and feel the physical support of him being here.”

Kingan recently put out expressions of interest for players for representative girls and boys teams to compete at a tournament in Kaiapoi. Strong interest meant there could be two girls and three boys representative teams heading away this season.

There was a lot of talent in the 10-12 age-group, and Kingan anticipated there would be at least three teams competing among those age-groups.

At a senior football level, Meadowbank was still strong sitting just outside the top four in the South Canterbury competition.

Football Waitaki was in the process of organising another football festival in Oamaru on August 22.