Vale John Yates
Long-serving former Riverina football official John Yates has passed away in Wagga at the age of 86.
Yates, who served as Chief Commissioner of the NSW AFL from 1991 to 1998 also served on the Board of the Sydney Swans as well holding numerous positions at the club and local league level.
A sheep grazier in the Southern Riverina, he was a dedicated Poll Dorset sheep breeder on the family property, “Aberdeen” at Yerong Creek.
He grew up playing for Yerong Creek in the Central Riverina league and was a key player in the club’s 1954 premiership.
After retiring as a player he became actively involved in administration and was a pivotal figure in the merger of the The Rock and Yerong Creek clubs in 1962. He served TRYC in many capacities including as president and selector.
He was actively sought by clubs in the Farrer league to take over the presidency after the Victorian Country Football league (VCFL) restructure of the competitions in the Riverina in 1982 relegated the status of the FFL and eliminated the Central Riverina league.
Yates led the Farrer league out of the VCFL into the NSW Country AFL in 1985 that laid the foundations for the rest of the Riverina leagues to follow by 1992.
He was appointed to the NSW AFL Commission in 1988 and became the Chief Commissioner in 1991.
Recognising the need for the AFL to provide greater support for the development of grass-roots footy in NSW, Yates teamed with Swans chairman Richard Colless on the task force to reform the game in NSW.
Yates subsequently served on the inaugural NSW-ACT AFL Commission until 2003.
However, his heart lay in the development of the game in the Riverina, and particularly his beloved Farrer league. He mentored competition leaders Greg Verdon and David Oehm, like him, from TRYC, as well as then NSW AFL CEO Craig Davis.
His contribution to the game has been substantial, particularly through the difficult times with the VCFL, and when Powerplay owned the Sydney Swans.
He is a life member of NSW AFL and was awarded an Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
He is survived by his devoted wife, Judy, and son Tony and his family.
Written by Dr Rod Gillett, who served with John Yates in the Farrer Football League, NSW Country AFL, and NSW AFL.