A RIVERINA-wide football competition is one step closer to becoming a reality after a constructive meeting between Griffith and Wagga clubs on Saturday.
Representatives from Wagga United and Lake Albert – the two most recent Football Wagga grand finalists – left the meeting enthused by the prospect of linking up with the Griffith District Football Association for next season.
However, local club presidents – still stung by the collapse of the Regional Premier League and the ever-changing structure of Griffith football – have demanded the Wagga sides pledge their long-term commitment to the GDFA before they join.
GDFA president Matthew Curran has set the Wagga clubs a four-week timeline with a final decision to be made on the composition of next year’s league at the GDFA’s annual general meeting at the end of October.
He told The Area News the expansion talks are a move in the right direction for football in the Riverina.
“It’s not about our association, it’s not about theirs – it’s about growing the game,” he said.
“It’s not about individual clubs or opinions, it’s about getting more people on the park.
“We’re all members of Football NSW, we’ve all got to work together for the betterment of the game.”
Lake Albert captain and treasurer, Justin Curran, said his club was in for the long haul.
“The move that we make as a club, it’s not just going to be a one-year thing. It’s got to be a permanent fix,” he said.
“The clubs in Wagga have been having fortnightly meetings for the past six months to discuss where we want football to be not just in Wagga but in the Riverina.
“The problems we’re facing have been around for a while – as players we need a larger, better competition.
“The Griffith clubs are happy for us to join and we are keen. We’ll speak to the Wagga clubs who couldn’t make it to the meeting, let them know the general feeling and then we’ll come back and let Matt and the Griffith clubs know.”
It is believed the only other sticking point besides the Wagga clubs’ long-term commitment to the Griffith competition is if they will be competitive enough in what is broadly seen as a much stronger league.
Matthew Curran suggested some Griffith sides may be in for a shock, but again admitted the Wagga teams will need to lift to have any chance of challenging for the title.
“Nobody will win if they come over and get pumped, but in saying that, they might pump a few Griffith teams too,” Curran said.
“There will be (Griffith) teams that they could definitely beat now. To get into that top four, they might need to do a bit of tweaking.
“I don’t think they’ll be too far off the money. I floated imports and what some clubs are doing at the moment and I know Lake Albert’s very, very keen to do that.”
The Wagga clubs were again told at the meeting they will be required to bring first grade, reserves, women’s and under 18s teams across to Griffith if they are to enter.
“We’d really like an (expanded) 18s comp – they’re struggling there just like we are. We’ve only got five teams and we want to boost it up,” Curran said.
“They’ve got heaps of juniors. They are big set-ups.”
Griffith City FC president Geoff Bortolin threw his support behind the GDFA and the Wagga clubs, but remained skeptical about their on-field quality.
“We’re looking forward to it, we’re all for it,” he said,
“Hopefully things will eventuate with the Wagga sides, but we’re a bit unsure as to how good they really are.
“But it’s a good move for the sport – it’s probably the one that will take off in this town, at least.”