COOTAMUNDRA have made an application to AFL Riverina to join next year's Farrer League competition.
The Blues have spent the past 18 years in AFL Canberra but have decided the time is right to return to the Farrer League in a reduced capacity.
After a number of discussions with AFL officials, Cootamundra have lodged an application to join AFL Riverina with the view of fielding one football and two netball teams.
The Blues' senior team would play in the Farrer League reserve grade competition, while the netballers would potentially play in A reserve and B grade.
Cootamundra president Todd Basham is confident the club's future lies back in AFL Riverina.
"We've been speaking to (AFL official) Marc Geppert for the last two years, especially with the different structure coming in over there," Basham said.
"We've always had a history over in Wagga. The only reason we went to Canberra was to field one side and be catered for. We couldn't compete in the old Farrer one, too much money got involved.
"We've basically got enough for just one side and coming back (to AFL Riverina) is a little bit less travel. Over the last 17 years we've travelled to Batemans Bay, to Cooma, to Goulburn and Canberra is a two hour trip every second weekend.
"You cut that down by half (in AFL Riverina), every second week you've only got an hour travel mostly. It was just getting a bit too much on some of the blokes.
"When we asked about it, we've got a lot of history (in AFL Riverina), a lot of our ex-players have played in the Farrer and Riverina Leagues, our juniors go and play with either Temora or East Wagga so we're just interested to see where it's going to lead us to.
"The players are excited about a bit of a change. The other thing is that we lost our netballers when we went to Canberra so it's a chance to bring the netballers and a few more females into the club."
AFL Southern NSW community football and competition manager Tom Walker gave credit to Cootamundra and the way they have approached their application.
"Cootamundra have been really impressive with how they have presented themselves to the board," Walker said.
"They've put up a united front and it's a credit to them with what they've been able to put to the board so far."
The AFL Riverina board will meet with Farrer League clubs and the competition management committee (CMC), via video, on December 6 to seek their feedback.
AFL Riverina will then meet to form a recommendation to either grant or deny Cootamundra's application.
At the same time, AFL Canberra will meet to discuss Cootamundra's application to leave.
All going well, it will then be up to all AFL Riverina member clubs to vote on the application recommendation from the board.
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Walker said AFL Riverina enter the process with an open mind.
"The AFL Riverina board do not have a position right now," he said.
"They're keen to gauge the feedback from all Farrer League football netball clubs and after they receive that feedback, they will consider Cootamundra's application to join AFL Riverina."
Walker pointed out that Cootamundra's application would fit easily under the new AFL Riverina senior competition model, that is set to be implemented from 2023.
Basham believes Cootamundra is the the perfect way to test the new system before it is fully implemented.
"It can be a stepping stone, a guinea pig trial to see what the next year is going to bring," he said.
As part of the potential move, by-laws would be implemented to ensure clubs are unable to 'stack' their reserve grade team to play Cootamundra.
A reduced gate entry charge for these games would be considered and Cootamundra's home netball games would be played at the town courts, 500 metres away from their home ground, Clarke Oval.
Cootamundra have agreed to play their home game against Coleambally at a neutral venue, to reduce travel, and will wear an alternative playing strip.
The Blues would look to play their home games at 2.10pm, but are flexible for time and venue options for away games.
Cootamundra are coached by former East Wagga-Kooringal premiership player Joe Scott and won the one AFL Canberra division three flag in 2014.
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