NAB Cup 2011 fixture announced
Wednesday, October 27 2010 @ 10:31 PM ACDT
Contributed by: Brett Northey
The AFL has announced the fixture for the 2011 AFL NAB Cup, the pre-season tournament leading into the main season. As expected the AFL have made some major changes to allow 18 teams to compete and possibly aimed at combating waning interest in the pre-season tournament.
The Cup will see the debut at AFL level of 17th team the Gold Coast Suns, whilst the 18th club, currently known as Greater Western Sydney, will also debut, although their full AFL arrival is not until 2012. Sadly for Australian fans, the historic debut of both clubs will only be available on pay television station Foxtel - something likely to be an increasing occurrence under the next TV rights agreement and likely relaxation of anti-siphoning laws by the Federal Government.
AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan announced the six divisions for round one of the revised 2011 competition, where the AFL’s 18 clubs will be placed in six pools.
Each club will play two matches in their pool against the other two sides, with all round one matches being shortened games, comprising two 20-minute halves (approximately) across a three-hour window for the three matches.
The Swans, the Suns and Team GWS will be grouped together at Blacktown Olympic Park, the future home of Team GWS, on Saturday night February 19. Kevin Sheedy, the third-longest serving coach in VFL / AFL history, will make his return to the top level at the helm of Team GWS and fans will likely see cross-code recruits Karmichael Hunt (Gold Coast) and Israel Folau (GWS) pitted against each other and against top-level AFL opposition for the first time.
Mr McLachlan said the AFL was pleased to confirm the fixture. “The introduction of Gold Coast and Team GWS are great steps for our competition and there will be tremendous excitement when both teams take the field for the first time,” Mr McLachlan said. “Gold Coast has worked extremely hard over the last year to prepare for its AFL debut and will complete the final pieces in its recruiting puzzle at next month’s NAB AFL Draft on the Gold Coast. Team GWS is beginning the process now of identifying young talent and the NAB Cup will provide an initial opportunity for Kevin Sheedy and his coaching staff to assess what they need to do over the next 12 months,” he said.
The other round one pools, and their locations, are:
· Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Melbourne at AAMI Stadium, Friday night February 11.
· Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond at Etihad Stadium, Saturday night February 12.
· West Coast, Fremantle and Hawthorn at Patersons Stadium, Sunday afternoon February 13.
· Essendon, the Brisbane Lions and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, Friday night February 18.
· Geelong Cats, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at Skilled Stadium, Sunday afternoon February 20.
The introduction of the Gold Coast Football Club, as the competition’s 17th side from 2011 onwards, had meant the AFL was not able to continue with a traditional four-week straight knockout competition for the NAB Cup.
Under the new format that was announced in May 2010, the six winners of each division will qualify for round two, along with the two other sides that have the best records among all the other teams, to allow for a traditional quarter-final set up of eight teams, before moving into semi finals and a grand final over a three-week period.
“We had received a lot of feedback from clubs that three full-scale pre-season matches was the right number for them in terms of their preparation for the premiership season, and this format allows for three matches, along with a first week where players can play one match for 40 minutes, with a light run, or play both games for 80 minutes of football.”
Mr McLachlan said the venues for NAB Challenge matches would be announced later this year but would again include a range of venues outside capital cities to allow people in regional Australia to see AFL players in action.