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Monday, May 21 2018 @ 08:32 pm ACST

Mackay Shines As Draftees Sizzle

The North Queensland city of Mackay finally got to host its highly anticipated AFL match, almost a year after having had a scheduled match between St Kilda and Brisbane washed out. Instead, Harrup Park, Mackay’s AFL centrepiece, was bathed in sunshine and warm, tropical conditions to see the Gold Coast Suns take on the Essendon Bombers.

Local organisers would have been thrilled to bits to see a healthy crowd pour through the gates (official attendance not yet released) and get behind the game – an important clash in terms of keeping football of the highest level in northern parts of Queensland as well as helping grow the game at grassroots level through local clubs, schools and even just a kick in the park.
With Mackay hosting the JLT Community Series match, and Cairns hosting another AFL Premiership match between the Suns and Western Bulldogs in July, local footy in both cities (and Townsville situated between the two) can grow through additional exposure, marketing and opportunities at club and community levels.

As for the match itself, when two sides are locked together for most of the match it suggests that they both did some good things. Little more than a goal separated the Suns and Bombers after Essendon slammed home the first four goals of the match. From there the Suns tightened up the contest and ran out winners by three points in an exciting finish. When young Bomber, Darcy Parish, kicked a late goal to get Essendon within three points of the Suns, it looked as if the momentum had swung. But the siren sounded before the Bombers could mount another challenge.

But it was youth that stole the show in the Mackay heat. Two of Gold Coast’s prized 2016 draftees – Will Brodie (pick 9) and Ben Ainsworth (pick 4) – excited their fans, each kicking two goals and being amongst the team’s best players on the day. These were great signs for the club as they rebuild again and drive towards a coveted finals campaign.

The Bombers had excitement of their own when young Josh Begley, taken with pick 31 at the 2016 draft, kicked four goals in his club debut. Essendon is using the pre-season to bring back their previously banned players as well as their crop of young talent and mix them with last year’s team to rebuild the club after five years of unwanted distractions. Begley’s debut performance brought smiles to fan’s faces and signalled a new hope for the future.

Mackay should be proud of the extravaganza they put on for local fans and curious onlookers. A day where the city shone in the tropical sun and young stars of the future dazzled the appreciative crowd, which can only be good for footy…everywhere.

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