AFL “Pre-Season Roadshow” rolls into northern states
Tuesday, February 04 2014 @ 04:34 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Northern Territory football fans, and particularly the excited fans in Alice Springs, are gearing up for one of their biggest matches of the year when the Melbourne Demons take on the Geelong Cats at Traeger Park on Friday 28th February as part of the AFL’s NAB Cup pre-season competition.
A few days earlier, Townsville gets its moment in the sun when the Gold Coast Suns return to the city to take on the Brisbane Lions at Tony Ireland Stadium. The North Queensland city, recipient of the effects of successive cyclones (Dylan and Edna) last week, will be looking forward to the excitement of big time AFL football again after successfully hosting the Suns v Kangaroos match last year.
For Alice Springs, in the absolute heart of the country, this is their chance to show the game to the locals, but also show off TIO Traeger Park through national exposure as a bona fide AFL venue. This is the first of their two AFL games this season, as they host the Melbourne versus Port Adelaide game in Round 11 for premiership points also. Darwin will retain its annual premiership match when the Melbourne Demons host the Fremantle Dockers in Round 16 at TIO Stadium.
Alice Springs locals should get an uncompromising battle with the Melbourne Demons, now under premiership coach Paul Roos, keen to lift themselves out of the inky depths of the wooden spoon zone. Their opponents, the Geelong Cats, are also keen to prove that their dynasty isn’t over and will unleash their reserves of talent in the lead up to Round 1.
Across to the east in Townsville, the Gold Coast Suns, tipped by some to push for finals action in 2014, will be hell bent on teaching their state rivals, the Brisbane Lions, a thing or two about how to play in North Queensland. Brisbane, however, have played in the tropics before, both in Cairns and Darwin, though many in their young list will experience the energy-sapping heat and humidity of Townsville in the “wet season” for the first time.
Tony Ireland Stadium, the AFL headquarters in Townsville, will be keen to be showcased again in a favourable light as a future AFL venue for premiership points. Last year’s clash between the Suns and Kangaroos gained the ground and the city invaluable support, especially for the juniors wanting to be the next Gary Ablett.
For North Queensland, this clash is the pre-cursor to the big match in Round 17 when the Western Bulldogs begin their association with Cazalys Stadium by hosting the Gold Coast Suns, again for premiership points. The Bulldogs replace the Richmond Tigers who finally managed to enjoy Cairns last season by beating the Gold Coast Suns after having lost the corresponding matches in the previous two seasons.
Certainly, though, the AFL’s Nab Cup “18 games in 18 days” format for 2014 is a big win for Alice Springs and Townsville as the AFL push to reach regional areas across the country continues in earnest. The northern states will certainly make the most of the opportunity.