The make-up of Australian Rules competitions in the region will be under examination this year, with AFL NSW/ACT committed to a review of football as part of its planning for the future.
AFL Southern NSW manager, Steve Mahar, said the scope of the review hasn’t been finalised, but confirmed the governing body will be looking at local leagues, including the four competitions under AFL Riverina.
“We want to be proactive, rather than reactive, and this year presents an opportunity to look at current competitions, and maybe develop a plan so people can work towards that plan,” Mahar said.
“The areas most in need of this are the Farrer and Riverina Leagues, Wagga and District Juniors, South West Juniors, as well as the Hume League and Upper Murray – looking at all the clubs in those areas.”
There has been an air of change in local football, with Ganmian-Grong Grong-Matong moving their juniors from South West to Wagga and District; The Rock-Yerong Creek driving a push to have same-day juniors and seniors in the Farrer League, and the Upper Murray keen to enter a junior team in the Wagga under 15s competition.
Mahar said there will be an open book approach to the process.
“We’re in the very early stages. The starting point for us is looking at what we currently have and the facts around how many numbers we’ve got, teams, travel times – and even whether travel is an issue for some clubs,” he said.
“We’re also acknowledging that certain towns are getting bigger and certain towns are getting smaller, and we want to be able to provide hope clubs that potentially think they’re facing declining populations.”
Mahar admitted there is some “complexity” in the two junior leagues under AFL Riverina jurisdiction essentially divided on geographical lines, unlike the senior competitions.
He said the primary focus of the review is to try to work out what’s in the best interests of growing the sport.
“We’ve got to throw it all on the table, there’s no magic bullet, but we want kids being able to have a kick, and play footy,” he said.