GRIFFITH’S proposed move to join Football NSW’s State League 2 has come under threat after revelations Football Wagga will also apply for a licence for the competition.
Football Wagga’s decision to follow in the GDFA’s footsteps sets up a potential battle between Griffith and Wagga for the opportunity to represent the Riverina in the state’s fourth-tier league.
It also puts further pressure on the Griffith clubs to unite and support the push or risk seeing Wagga become the region’s round-ball capital.
Riverina Rhinos coach Anthony Vecchio told The Area News Griffith could miss the boat entirely if the game’s local stakeholders do not come together.
Vecchio even expressed his fears that the Rhinos, the Regional League team that would underpin any Griffith-based State League 2 side, could be taken away from the town and moved to Wagga if they are successful.
“I know we’ve called it Riverina Rhinos and we have the rights to it, but when it comes down to it, it’s a Riverina thing,” Vecchio said.
“Anything can happen – what’s to say it might not be moved and based out of Wagga? We’ve done all the hard work but those bigger towns tend to take control of these things and I don’t want that to happen.
“We have to take the blinkers off and look outside the square, and think of football as an association - not as individual clubs.
“We need to do this - not we should, we need to, or Wagga may take it. And we can’t afford that to happen.”
GDFA president Mathew Curran said he believes the Riverina is not big enough to sustain two State League teams.
Asked if he thought Football NSW would approve both applications, he said: “I very much doubt it.”
“We’ve already got the set-up with the Rhinos so it’s an automatic continuation for us.
“We’ve opened the door, (Wagga) is just trying to come in off the back of it.”
Football Wagga president Erwin Budde said there was room for both Griffith and Wagga teams in State League 2 provided the quality was there, claiming it was only a matter of when - not if - Wagga would join the competition.
But he said Curran’s original plan for a Riverina-wide representative team based in Griffith would be a logistical impossibility.
“You really want to provide the best opportunities for these guys to train and play together, week in, week out. Having that split would be hard,” Budde said.
“I think ultimately it would be better for the region if we went with two teams.
“Often we focus on whether we’ve got the quality or not - we don’t back ourselves enough, and I think we have to back ourselves on this. We’re good enough.”
Budde said he was not concerned that Wagga lacks the junior foundations of a Regional League team like the Rhinos, saying that they had to “start somewhere”.
He also denied the State League move was a power play to force or entice the Eastern Wanderers, the Billabong Cup team which contains some of Wagga’s strongest senior players, to return home.
“Honestly, it doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Budde said.
“We’re undertaking this as our own initiative. If players want to continue to play in Griffith, it’s their own decision.”
To compete in State League 2, teams must enter a senior and an under 20s men’s team, as well as meet a host of other on and off-field requirements.
Football NSW chose not to comment when approached by The Area News about the prospect of both Griffith and Wagga applying for a State League 2 licence.
“We have not advertised for Expressions of Interest for the 2015 Competition at this time therefore there is nothing to comment on until this process is even commenced,” competitions administrator Andrew Fathers said in a statement.
“Any determination on the structure and teams competition in 2015 will not be announced until September/October this year.”