"I'm absolutely flabbergasted that at the stroke of a pen you can discard 60 odd years of history."
With those words, respected former football powerbroker, Greg Verdon, opened a stinging broadside against AFL Riverina's decision to dump the Farrer League name from next season, and warned against 'sowing the seeds for demise'.
Verdon is a former chair of the Murrumbidgee Valley Australian Football Association (MVAFA), the forerunner to AFL Riverina, and was also chair of the Southern NSW AFL Board.
It's an understatement to say he wasn't impressed with last week's announcement that from 2023 clubs will be playing in the AFL Riverina Premier Division and AFL Riverina Community Division.
"Imagine trying to recruit players and saying you're playing in the AFL Riverina Community Division competition. From a branding point of view, it's bloody terrible," Verdon said.
"And why, when you've already got a situation where everyone recognises that the RFL (Riverina League) is the senior competition... why do you want to go and change it?
"Premier League? We're not a soccer competition. This all bloody airy, fairy stuff as far as I'm concerned."
The Daily Advertiser attempted to contact presidents of all nine Farrer League clubs on Friday to gauge reactions.
But as clubs have their hands full figuring out what they need to do and when (for this season, as well as next) it was Verdon who made it most clear that powering into a future without regard for the past is folly.
"You've got two brands with very strong identities. And you want to go and change it?" Verdon said in disbelief.
Verdon is also a former Farrer League president and twice served as president of The Rock-Yerong Creek. But his concern is the disrespect to the sport and a competition with a rich history.
"I think it is (upsetting) for people who have been long term followers of the league, but it's also the fact that it's a nothing name. The Community league is a nothing name. It doesn't resonate with anyone I've spoken to, especially older players," he said.
"I think it would be very difficult when you go to recruit and you say it's the AFL Riverina Community Division. You're basically saying it's a pub comp."
The Northern Jets launched a passionate defence of the Farrer League last year, urging administrators to take care of a 'great quality comp'.
Three months on, their concerns about the Community Division now have them weighing up a bid for the Premier Division instead.
Verdon has now gone public with a statement many around Farrer League clubs have been uttering quietly.
"My attitude is, if it wasn't broke, why fix it?" he said.
"If you look at the recruiting that's been done for this year, the Farrer and the RFL are going to have bloody great competitions. I think, why do you want to go and change that? Is it just to meet some AFL marketing criteria? I think clubs have been lulled into a false sense of security."
Verdon said the Riverina League learnt the dangers of identified tiers back in its early years when 'division two' clubs found it hard to entice players. He believes today's tools to 'equalise' leagues could exacerbate the recruiting conundrum severely.
"They're going to lower the salary cap and player points system (limit) for the Community league. That in turn makes it extremely hard for the Coleamballys, the Barellans, the Ariah Parks (Northern Jets) to continue," Verdon said.
"Really, you're sowing the seeds for their demise."
President of Riverina League powerhouse Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong raised it publicly in November after a club delegates meeting, saying it's imperative that a second tier comp is attractive to players.
Verdon's point is the new name only adds to the problem.
Barellan president Jeff Mickan acknowledged disappointment at the iconic Farrer League identity disappearing into the AFL Riverina Community Division: "It's long winded and hard to say for a start. I don't know whether it would've been better to leave them as they were: Farrer and RFL."
Barellan's junior club has had an issue with AFL Riverina in the off season, after their junior netballers were kicked out of South West Juniors because the club couldn't fulfil its commitment to field some football teams.
"It's very disappointing. I can see AFL's point that we weren't meeting the criteria agreed when we came in but I don't know if the AFL board seems to just look at its constitution or rules but they don't seem to have a feel for community," Mickan said.
It's a separate issue but the fears about missing feedback and misunderstanding what clubs are after may yet resonate more widely this time.
Jets president Simon Gaynor likes seeing Riverina in the titles but had hoped the Farrer identity could be retained.
CSU president Cameron Humphries is a fan though.
"We knew there was going to be a change and I don't think they could've done much better. It's pretty clear and concise," he said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.