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Tuesday, February 25 2020 @ 03:25 am ACDT

Essendon’s Tropical North Connection


Cairns, in Far North Queensland, has long been a source of AFL footballers that made the journey south to play the game at the highest level. But with today’s signing by the Essendon Football Club of Cairns product, Sam Michael, the connection has reached a new level.

Rarely have two Cairns based players donned the same colours. The Gold Coast Suns have seen Lewis Moss, Rex Liddy and Jarrod Harbrow wear their colours in 2011 when Harbrow joined the club, but soon after both Liddy and Moss were delisted, so the Cairns link faltered.

Other players from Cairns have graced AFL club lists in recent times with players such as Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide) still playing, Peter Yagmoor (Collingwood) having reached the highest level before being delisted and there are plenty more waiting in the wings for their big chance.

However, Essendon this week signed former Brisbane Lion, and ex-Cairns juniors player, Sam Michael. He became the club’s tenth “top-up” player for the 2016 season and has the chance to join another former Cairns-based junior in Courtenay Dempsey at the club. This gives Cairns a strong link to the Bombers with two of its former junior stars on the same AFL club list.

To extend the link further, both Dempsey and Michael played junior football for the same junior club, Cairns Hawks. Neither were born in Cairns, with Dempsey born in Mt Isa and Michael born in Brisbane. But both had moved to Cairns at an age where they discovered the game and played through junior ranks until their talent saw them move to Brisbane clubs – Dempsey to the Kedron Bears and Michael to the Redland Bombers – from where they were drafted to Essendon and Brisbane respectively.

Michael’s signing to the Bombers sees the start of a very tropical connection, but with much talent to be found in the Cairns junior competitions, Essendon might just spend a little more time in the Far North Queensland city looking to unearth yet another tropical gem from up north.

Both players have been named in Essendon’s NAB Challenge squad for their first match of the season against Carlton today. For Michael the game presents another opportunity to succeed at an AFL club and he will be extremely hungry to do so.

And the footy lovers in Cairns will watch on in silent appreciation of two Cairns products plying their trade on the big stage.
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