Wagga Tigers president Paul Lucas concedes developing women's football is likely to be the challenge facing the Riverina League powerhouse as clubs work through the criteria for the new 'premier league'.
Tigers have won two of the last four Riverina League flags (in 2016 and 2019) as well as the short, elite AFL Riverina Championship in 2020, and intend to be on the front foot for a revamped 2023 season.
"It's a big, nasty document but you break it down, and we've got some great contributors in our working group who are excited to make it happen," Lucas said.
"Most of the criteria are things we're already doing. We'll change a few things in our constitution to fit in with that.
"We need a level two accredited coach to be coaching coordinator and our senior coach Murray Stephenson has agreed to do that.
"The biggest hurdle for Wagga Tigers is going to be developing our women's team without a home ground because cricket use Robertson Oval until the 25th April."
The criteria covers required teams, junior pathways, coaching structures, governance and administration, finance, facilities, medical and reporting requirements.
Lucas said organising football and netball clubs these days is akin to running a business. He supports the AFL Riverina restructure, which aims to lift the standard of the top flight competition, while providing competitive and healthy league options for smaller community clubs.
However, he hinted that the requirement that premier league clubs must field a women's team in the (pre-season) Southern NSW Women's league will bear close watching.
"(Women's footy) is probably our biggest hurdle... that competition is growing from eight to 12 or 13 teams so it's going to be interesting how deep the pool is," Lucas said.
"There might be other ways of looking at promoting women's football... but we've got good, strong netball sides and good strong football sides. I'm very confident we'll meet the criteria in every other aspect.
"But I'm a fan of it (the tiered competitions). I think it's a good thing for football. And the premier league is proving to be quite popular. I know (Farrer League clubs) East Wagga are keen to get into it and Marrar as well although juniors will be a work in progress for them. But I think it's a good idea."
Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes have a planning meeting scheduled this weekend.
New president Geoff Seymour says the Goannas' preparation to field a women's team for the first time is "progressing well".
"There's a range of criteria that we're already doing but I think the biggest threat for a rural community club like Mangoplah is getting our facilities to the best standard, or the standard required," Seymour said.
"We're currently undertaking some renovations to our visitors changerooms - that work's underway, which is great. But there's still a lot of work to be undertaken by volunteers."
MCUE haven't finished outside the top five in 10 seasons. They were grand finalists in 2014 and 2015 and second on the ladder in 2016, 2017 and 2021.
Seymour broadly backs the AFL Riverina approach in reviewing the leagues.
"I think it was time again for a review... it probably was due again," he said.
"Is it good or bad, it's probably hard to say now. Will it be different to the RFL-Farrer structure? Maybe not overly different but I suppose it's the AFL's way of making sure clubs are adapting with the times.
"We've got to look to better our facilities, and get women involved in footy because that's a huge growth area for the AFL.
"It does put some more hurdles in front of clubs. The better clubs will probably prosper but I think there'll be a few that do suffer... it's going to be interesting how it sorts out some of the rural clubs and whether they want to be in the community competitions."
Marrar have indicated they're keen to aim for the premier league while the Northern Jets this week issued a passionate defence of the Farrer League, and warned against changes that will devalue a 'high quality competition'.
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