Former AFL star Adam Schneider believes Riverina footballers will be better off for the involvement of Greater Western Sydney (GWS) in the region.
Schneider returned home to the region last Friday, where he was special guest at Riverina School Sports Association's Blues Awards at Wagga RSL Club.
Hailing from Osborne, Schneider is one of Riverina's great success stories. He went on to play 228 AFL games, kicked 259 goals and was part of Sydney's 2005 premiership.
He is now part of GWS and will take on assistant coaching role for the first time next season after two years as the club's NEAFL coach.
In those two years, Schneider spent a lot of time working with Riverina's brightest under 18 talent, that are often used by the Giants as top-up players in the NEAFL.
While the Riverina is experiencing somewhat of a draft drought at the moment, Schneider believes the experience the region's teenagers are gaining with the Giants are making them better players.
"We had Liam Delahunty from Coolamon come up and train with us last year, which was fantastic. I had Ed Perryman play most weeks," Schneider said.
"That's what I look at, if they can have the experience of playing with some good AFL-listed players then they'll come back to clubland a lot better. I'm a believer if you're given an opportunity to play in something like (the NEAFL), it's a great opportunity for them.
"We had guys from all over the Riverina, which was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. I think it's a great opportunity for them to come up and play. They're part of our Giants Academy, this is our area and we want to reward them guys as much as possible."
Delahunty, Perryman and George Kendall are three players that impressed Schneider at NEAFL level.
He is also excited about some of the younger players about to start coming through, with another product from Osborne, Sam Stening, one name that has caught his eye.
Schneider does not believe it will be long before another Riverina footballer finds a home at an AFL club.
"From what I hear there is some really good young guys coming through," he said.
"If they can get as much opportunity as possible to play against some better players then that will give them the best chance."
Schneider is looking forward to the 2020 AFL season, where he finds himself as the Giants' offensive coach.
"It's going well. Pre-season's not as full on as during the year so at the moment it's just getting back to it, getting the guys fit," he said.
"I look after the offence. I'm the offensive coach that looks after our ball movement and trying to kick as many goals as possible. It's a nice, exciting role. It will be tough at times but it should be good fun."
Schneider believes the Giants, who lost to Richmond in this year's AFL grand final, are well-placed for another serious tilt at the premiership next year.
"We're looking pretty good, to be honest," he said.
"For the first time in the three years I've been there we've got about 40 blokes ready to go in training. We haven't over 30 once I don't think.
"So hopefully, fingers crossed, we can have an injury free year and see what happens from there because we haven't had any luck in the last few years.
"I haven't seen anything like it at a footy club these last two years."