AFL Riverina have bowed to history, tradition and a wave of public sentiment, agreeing to reinstate the Riverina League and Farrer League competition names for next year.
Chairman Michael Irons told The Daily Advertiser on Thursday evening that their plan to start afresh would be reversed, following an outcry over the proposed AFL Riverina Premier League and AFL Riverina Community League rebrandings.
"The strong desire of the clubs to retain the names and identities made us reconsider," Irons said.
The Riverina Football and Netball League will include all three grades of football.
The Farrer Football and Netball League will formally be Division One (first grade) and Divsion Two (reserves) as well as a Farrer League Under 17.5s.
AFL Riverina says the separate tiers offer options in case clubs can't field all grades. It's been a sticking point since Cootamundra applied to join in second grade only this year but Irons reassured clubs it's about flexibility for the future.
"There may not be a situation for next year or for the next five years but we want to at least have that plan of options on the table for clubs, not react every year when there's an issue with a club and the playing numbers they can support," he said.
The contentious issue of salary caps and player points for the leagues is still being discussed, in light of significant Farrer League concern if the Riverina League ceilings are higher.
Irons says the backflip on names doesn't mean they've lost the confidence of clubs.
"No, it's about taking on board the feedback. Obviously some clubs weren't clear on what the recommendations (of the independent Burgess review) included, and we'd said we were proceeding with those changes for 2023 and made a decision," he said.
"But once we made a decision and have seen the reaction from clubs and their strong desire to retain (the identities) we've been able to consider that."
Award names will also be reviewed but the focus is on awards that don't currently have a name attached.
AFL Riverina is confident the review remains on track, with clubs to apply for leagues by June 30 and decisions to be announced by August 8.
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