Push to align Farrer League clubs at junior and senior level will face scrutiny

AFL Riverina and the Farrer League say they’re happy to meet with a group pushing for ‘same day footy’ – aligning junior and senior competitions in the league – but insist any decisions will be guided by the impact on junior playing numbers right across the region.

Victoria Park hosting junior and senior football on the same day is seen as the key to many at The Rock-Yerong Creek, and some other Farrer League clubs.

Victoria Park hosting junior and senior football on the same day is seen as the key to many at The Rock-Yerong Creek, and some other Farrer League clubs.

A movement for change has been instigated by The Rock-Yerong Creek veteran and former senior coach, David Pieper.

The party has canvassed Farrer League clubs on the idea of having under 12, under 14 and under 17 football played on the same day as reserves and first grade (with Auskick held midweek). 

Pieper preferred not to discuss the suggestion publicly given the proposal hasn’t yet been presented to AFL Riverina and the Farrer League’s competition management committee.

It’s understood a majority of Farrer League clubs, excluding North Wagga, have indicated initial support for the idea. In particular, clubs in smaller communities concerned about both player numbers, and volunteers stretched across junior and senior football.

Farrer League president David Oehm said his committee is keen to see detail.

“We’re happy to meet with a delegation of clubs and I've said send through the information of how it’s going to work,” Oehm said.

“I appreciate and I can understand where they’re coming from and what they want to do, but the big question would be how it would work?”

The big stumbling block is that the seven Farrer League clubs with junior teams are spread across two different leagues – Wagga and District Juniors (TRYC, East Wagga-Kooringal, North Wagga), and South West Juniors (Temora, Barellan, Coleambally and Northern Jets). 

The best of Wagga and District Juniors and South West Juniors play off in the under 13s representative game in Narrandera earlier this year. The impact on both WDJFNL and SWJFNL are key concerns of the Farrer League having its own juniors.

The best of Wagga and District Juniors and South West Juniors play off in the under 13s representative game in Narrandera earlier this year. The impact on both WDJFNL and SWJFNL are key concerns of the Farrer League having its own juniors.

It means any proposal to remove Farrer League juniors would impact on those competitions, which is the concern for AFL Riverina. Operations manager Shane Buchanan said the door is always open for discussion, and ‘same day footy’ has long been discussed, without a solution.

“Any change to any competition will have a major change on the structure of our competitions and it won't go ahead if it’s going to impact (negatively) on participation levels,” Buchanan said.

The challenge to make change is proving to AFL officials that a change won’t damage the viability of the Wagga and District and South West competitions, and that Farrer League clubs fielding teams only in 12s, 14s and 17s won’t reduce the number of teenagers playing Australian rules.

AFL Riverina (which runs the Riverina League, Farrer League and the two junior competitions) is not the only body with a say in discussions.

“AFL Riverina will look at what’s best for their competitions but from an AFL NSW perspective, we oversee a broader region and have to make decisions on what’s best for the whole region,” AFL Southern NSW game development manager Marc Geppert said.

“We’re here to help support those leagues make decisions on what’s best not only for their leagues but also for the wider region.”