Middle East Correspondent: Riverina review puts Farrer clubs in danger

By Rod Gillett

There will be no forced mergers of club, according to the Review of Australian Football & Netball in Southern NSW released in Wagga  on Friday. It’s a review that proposes a blending of the current Riverina and Farrer football leagues into a new competition to be known as AFL Riverina.

In a shock move the review committee has recommended that The Rock-Yerong Creek be transferred from the Farrer league to the Hume league in 2010. This would reduce the number of clubs in AFL Riverina to just fifteen. And it would increase the number of clubs in the Hume League to fifteen.

There was a suggestion that the review body would recommend a “super league”, but the smart money was on a revised two-competition model providing for promotion and relegation. Instead we have a convoluted competition between all the clubs organised into City and Country.

It will involve all teams in each respective division playing each other over seven rounds then being grouped into the top four from each division and playing eleven rounds and then finals. The top division will compete for the Riverina Cup and the lower division will compete for the Farrer Cup.

The City division will consist of Collingullie-Ashmont-Kapooka, Coolamon, Eastern Hawks, Mangoplah-Cookardina-Eastlakes United, North Wagga, Rivcoll Bushpigs, Turvey Park, and Wagga Tigers.

The Country division will be made-up of Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong, Griffith, Leeton-Whitton, Narrandera, Marrar, Northern Jets and Temora. There would only be seven clubs in this division, necessitating a bye.

After seven rounds of completion the most likely scenario would almost certainly be the current competitions with North Wagga and the Eastern Hawks in between. So why put the likes of Marrar, Temora, the Northern Jets, and the Bushpigs through some merciless floggings?

The simple, most expedient solution is for North Wagga and the Eastern Hawks to go into the Farrer League, and to allow for promotion and relegation into the Riverina League. And, of course, no transfer for The Rock-Yerong Creek.

The real solution to the structural problems of the competitions in southern NSW is a total revamp. Not just the Riverina and Farrer Leagues, but the Hume League as well as the Picola and District Football League, the competition that Jerilderie and Rennie joined when the Coreen league disbanded.

This was the brief last year for ex-Ovens and Murray League administrator Ron Montgomery, who was hired as a consultant by AFL NSW to review the structure of the game in southern NSW “to ensure that teams fielded in competitions are as strong and evenly matched as possible”.

Montgomery failed to address the issue of a six-club Farrer league. Refer to my previous article “Bushpigs facing extinction” for more details about this blunder.

In actual fact the Riverina Football League only needs tweaking, not a major structural change.

The “super league” will be created by stealth. The smaller clubs will be forced to merge in order to compete. A couple of likely match-ups are Marrar and the Bushpigs (which at least are culturally aligned), the Northern Jets (already a result of the merger of Ardlethan and Ariah Park-Mirrool) with near neighbor Temora, and North Wagga with the Eastern Hawks (East Wagga) or even Collingullie-Ashmont-Kapooka.

Even then the merged teams are unlikely to be able to compete with powerful clubs like Wagga Tigers, Ganmain GGM, and Turvey Park as well as Griffith, Narrandera and Leeton. The RFL is a major league while the Farrer league is essentially a district league. A competition even in the form recommended is just not sustainable for all the current clubs involved in this flawed model.

The “process” is now for the clubs to review the report and make submissions to the review committee by 3 July. This will be followed by meetings with the clubs, and the competition structure will be confirmed by July 17.

Seems like a fait accompli to me.

Comments

  1. Gary Belgre says:

    Whilst not possessing Rocket Gillett’s encyclopeadic knowledge of country football, I do appreciate the opportunity provided by the current Farrer (and former Central Riverina League)for hack marginal footballers such as myself to participate with dignity and sheer delight in our wonderful indigenous code.

    Clubs such as the Rivcoll Bushpigs are legendary across the land, not just for the players and characters produced, but for the impact that the allumi have had in introducing and propagating the game in schools and communities in every state in the Commonwealth. (Indeed it could be argued that the Bushpigs produce more future coaches and administrators than any equivalently sized club in NSW!)

    AFL NSW have to get this right this time, or face a future where a very powerful force in growing the game is lost to the code forever.

    Gary “Bullbar” Belgre

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