Issuing a New Year's call for calm, new Farrer League president Greg Fox is confident cool heads and a quality competition will prevail on into a post-review world of 2023.
Fox, who has been on the league's Competition Management Committee (CMC) for the past two years, has succeeded David Oehm.
He takes the helm ahead of an eventful 2022, during which AFL Riverina clubs will need to nominate for either the 'premier league' or the community competition for the following season.
Fox is aware of the concerns at some clubs that their vibrant league might end up the poor cousin when the dust settles on the AFL Riverina restructures.
But he's confident the changes will help, not harm, the Farrer League, whether or not any of its clubs are successful in winning promotion to the higher division.
"We'll have a good comp, either way," Fox said.
"I think the fears that the comp won't be what it was, and all that stuff, I think those fears are probably a little unwarranted, maybe because they're not sure where it's all going.
"But I don't see (the Farrer League) changing too much."
Cootamundra's recent application to join the Farrer League in 2022 with a reserve grade football side and lower grade netball teams was roundly rejected by clubs.
The Canberra-based club has been encouraged to apply again in 2023 by AFL Riverina, which acknowledged that the application proved a lightning rod for Farrer League fears, and a reminder that clubs will need to be kept well-appraised of what the changes will mean.
AFL Riverina hopes the establishment of the premier league, with its ambitious criteria, will raise standards across the board.
Among many other factors, clubs need to appoint a Level 2 accredited senior coach and coaching coordinator, field three senior football sides and five netball grades, and have a senior women's football team.
"It certainly improves the structures," Fox said of the demanding criteria.
"Clubs are trying to bring in their womens teams, which is a key focus at the moment of AFL - understandably, that's the way it's going to go.
"(But) I don't know exactly where the numbers are going to in terms of the premier league.
"It started off being talked about as eight (teams) originally, but they may even push that out to 10, is my feeling.
"Whether that involves any of the Farrer League clubs, the review and AFL Riverina will decide that before the next season."
A Farrer League club's interest in nominating for the higher division by no means indicates they'll be accepted. The nine Riverina League clubs are all anticipated to push for premier league spots.
Leeton-Whitton, which doesn't yet have a women's team, confirmed its premier league intent to The Daily Advertiser this week.
Narrandera, which has been the Riverina League's biggest on-field struggler in recent seasons, has just had a major facilities upgrade at the Sportsground and it's been the heart of Riverina football, historically and geographically, for decades.
For the Farrer League, Fox can't see wholesale changes from 2022 to 2023.
"When you read between the lines, looking at the guidelines and criteria, I don't think there'll be too many changes. The comp will stay as it is. Except what we classify the third division, what we call our reserve grade comp, would open up for clubs like Cootamundra," he said.
"That's giving other clubs that are struggling an opportunity to come into league. I think there's more clubs than just Cootamundra that will look at that option favourably, in the future, as a way to being viable and staying viable."
That won't ease concerns about how draws will work, and the downside of splitting clubs up across venues.
But Fox, honoured to hold the presidency, is committted to his CMC being a conduit between clubs and AFL House.
"We've got to work between AFL and the clubs and try and strike that happy medium in between... and make sure clubs know where the league is going. I see that as the main role, more than pushing things through," he said.
He's positive about the 2022 season and hopes to oversee the first finals since 2019.
"I am looking forward to it and hopefully this will be the first in three years that we can get through a full season...through finals and everything else. That will be a blessing for clubs and everybody involved, to get back to some normality."
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