AFL Riverina chairman Michael Irons maintains the findings from the review into competitions are more relevant than ever before despite being put on the backburner for next season.
AFL Riverina informed clubs this week that the implementation of recommendations from David Burgess' competitions review will be further delayed due to the impact of COVID-19.
Age groups for junior competitions will remain as it was last year as AFL Riverina plans to revisit the timeline for introducing the recommendations and provide a further update in April.
The findings of Burgess' extensive AFL Riverina Competition Review were handed down in August 2019 but the implementation process was halted by the havoc wreaked by COVID-19 this year.
Irons said the primary reason for the further delay was the impact COVID-19 has had on AFL Riverina and AFL NSW-ACT, where the majority of staff only returned to work last week after being stood down since March.
Irons insisted however that the review has lost none of its relevance and in fact was more pertinent in the current climate.
"Yes, it's very much so (still relevant) and it sharpens the focus for clubs to consider where their club is at and the direction they're going, based on numbers and having to reengage with their playing group and their members for 2021," Irons said.
"I'm still confident it's the way forward but we've probably got some extra considerations with the economic impacts that COVID may have on local communities."
A new senior structure and a move in junior age groups were the two most notable recommendations out of the review.
The review recommended a new 'club criteria tiered model' for the senior competitions, comprising of Premier, Platinum, Community and Platinum 18s that was to be introduced in 2021.
Burgess also recommended that junior age groups return to under 12, 14, 16 and that under 18 be the entry point to seniors.
AFL NSW-ACT and AFL Riverina had both originally hoped to review the junior age groups for the Wagga and District competition in time to make changes for 2021 but have now shifted from that stance.
"We had considered juniors but with needing to plan towards next year, we need a starting point and we need to work with our current structures and revise any implementation on the junior changes like all the other recommendations," Irons said.
Irons concedes it is disappointing to have to push the changes back but hopes the football community will understand given the unexpected hurdles they were hit with this year.
"Yes it's disappointing that we've lost momentum but we've had to deal with extraordinary circumstances and adjust," he said.
Thirteen of the 18 AFL Riverina senior clubs opted not to play this year due to COVID-19, as well as a number of South West junior teams.
AFL Riverina and AFL NSW_ACT staff will now revise the implementation plan and hope to provide an update in April.