AFL Canberra is on notice to respect the sport’s rich history in the Riverina as it assumes management of the game in this region.
Southern NSW will merge with the ACT and South Coast region, coming under the jurisdiction of the Canberra office, after the resignation of Wagga-based regional manager Jason McPherson.
Federal Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack – a long-time observer and supporter of Australian Rules in the area – says the changes can work provided the region retains a degree of autonomy.
“So long as Canberra doesn’t treat the Riverina as a one-size-fits-all and think what’s good for Canberra or the south coast is good for the Riverina,” McCormack said.
“They were playing Aussie Rules here before Canberra was even a speck on the map.
“As long as they don’t start to dictate to us and they give us a certain amount of autonomy, I’m not against it.
“But they won’t want to start ruling the roost with policies that might suit Canberra or the south coast.”
A recent poll in The Daily Advertiser drew an overwhelming response with 94 percent of respondents against the idea of the Riverina being overseen from the nation’s capital.
But AFL NSW-ACT has said resources will be reinvested locally, with the creation of at least one new role in what it sees as the heartland of the sport in this state.
McCormack said AFL had gone from strength to strength under McPherson.
He acknowledged that centralisation of administration is never popular but believes the changes could be a good thing for Riverina football.
“If it means we end up with one more liaison officer in junior development or a promoter of footy in the region then that would be a good outcome,” he said.
“I’m adamant that the Riverina does run rings around anything else in NSW when it comes to Australian football… from administration, to capacity to grow into the future – you’ve only got to look at the last draft – to ability on the field and history.
“The Riverina is NSW Australian football.”