by Vince Ruargi (Area News)
FOOTBALL in Griffith has taken a huge leap forward with the acceptance of a locally-based side in Football NSW’s revamped Regional League for next year, according to GDFA president Matthew Curran.
The Riverina Rhinos were officially born on Monday night when the GDFA received official word their application to join the competition has been approved.
The Rhinos will be the only side from the region in the league, which also features representative sides from some of Sydney’s strongest associations, as well as other country outfits.
Established this year, the Regional League is a statewide junior competition for boys in four age groups – under 12s, 13s, 14s and 15s.
Curran said he was “ecstatic” with the news.
“It’s a great boost for our kids,” he said.
“We’ve put a lot of time and effort into it and a lot of people helped us with the submission and the phone’s been running hot with people in Griffith involved in the game.”
Curran said the competition will only assist the development of the city’s young talent, which has already impressed this year with the GDFA Under 13s clinching the State Cup and some strong performances in various representative carnivals.
“Kids can only get better when they’re surrounded by better players against better opposition, and that’s what this will do for us,” he said.
“These kids will be training weekly and playing together as a unit, so when it comes to state titles, our results will be a lot better than they have been. That’s the advantage all the other areas have had over us, and now we have it too.
“There was a gap for our juniors and based on our State Cup performance, that opened a lot of eyes and really put us on the map.
“Who knows – they could be playing in Sydney and there could be a scout there watching.
“This will open a lot of doors and just broadens the horizons for us.”
Football Riverina community development manager Blaise Fagan has been appointed as the Rhinos’ technical director, while the GDFA will put the call out for coaches later this week.
As the only team from the Riverina, Curran said players from Wagga, Albury and other surrounding areas will also be invited to become part of the Rhinos set-up.
He said their establishment will also mean the 20-odd children who are part of the Western NSW Mariners team will now no longer have to travel out of town every week to take on quality opposition.
“At the end of the day, it was there and we were the only (Riverina) branch willing to have a crack at it, so we did,” Curran said.
“It’s good for our kids in Griffith because they’ll make up the majority of the squad and it’s good for the local economy, because visiting sides will be bringing teams in four age groups with them.”
Curran said if the Rhinos are a success, the GDFA will introduce girls teams in the under 12s, 14s and 16s divisions in 2015.
The side has no set home ground as yet but is likely to rotate between Exies Oval, Noe Santolin Oval and Hanwood Oval, the three facilities the GDFA put forward in its application.