Last year, AFL Cairns lost its annual AFL Premiership match to fierce rival, Townsville. After a proud history of hosting pre-season cup AFL matches, the city received a VFL match in 2010 between the Gold Coast Suns and the Bendigo Bombers (affiliated then with Essendon).
From 2011 to 2018, Cazalys Stadium then hosted AFL Premiership matches featuring the Gold Coast Suns – a regular, linked heavily to the club’s talent academy in Cairns. Their opponents, Richmond, Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne, put on a show which captivated Cairns’ audiences on and off the field – but now that match is gone and questions remain as to the impact that will have on the local game, especially at grassroots level.
But four past and present VFL/AFL players use their knowledge of their time involved in Cairns footy, and on the bigger stage, to consider the state of Cairns footy – past, present and future.
The inaugural season of the AFL England National University League came to a close last weekend with the Oxford University team taking the honours in the men’s grand final, whilst the University of Birmingham women’s team won their title.
The grand finals bring to an end a season of fun and enjoyment for the university teams of Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham and southern Wales, but more than that it was a showcase of talent within the universities. Players who are not already aligned with clubs for the upcoming season now have a pipeline in place with a successful first season at university level.
The success of the program has already prompted interest from other university-based teams across England and beyond and it will be interesting to see whether the competition expands further next season.
Both the Paris Cockerels and the ALFA Lions have strengthened their chances to play in the CNFA Leo Legrange finals series later this year, coming away from their trips to Toulouse with victories. It was a tough day for both Stade Toulousain teams with defeats that will certainly put pressure on their own finals chances.
In the opening match, the Paris Cockerels were too good for the Stade Toulousain 1 team, winning by 22 points. The victory certainly puts the Cockerels into flag favouritism and a chance to seek back to back titles. Despite a hiccup when they went down narrowly to the Bordeaux Bombers, the Cockerels have looked the goods again this season.
The ALFA Lions have been determined to put their rollercoaster journey behind them. After winning the 2016/17 flag and missing the finals altogether in 2017/18, the Lions have worked hard to get back into finals contention. Their victory against the Stade Toulousain A team by 24 points keeps them inside the top four and a good chance to hold their ground throughout the remainder of the season and play finals.
Next Saturday the NTFL Premier League season will come to a close when the Southern Districts Crocs attempt to retain their title and win back to back flags. Their demolition of the Tiwi Bombers last night at TIO Stadium saw them back into another big dance with a chance to seek their fourth flag.
Just last weekend, the Tigers trounced the Bombers to advance to the grand final. They looked a shade better than the rest. But Southern Districts have sounded an ominous warning to the Tigers after a blistering second half against the Bombers – they have told the Tigers outright that to win the flag you have to beat us.
After a tight first term, the Crocs got a little break on the Bombers by half time – a five goal break and a big rescue mission for the Bombers if they wanted to get back in the game. The 31-point deficit for the Bombers was significant, but not insurmountable.
“I played both club and school soccer through U17’s. During my youth games, I ran in the mids/forwards and was a natural goal scorer. After exceeding a score limit set by my coach, I was put into goalkeeper, so everyone had an equal opportunity to play.
"During one game, I was so bored in goal, I was cartwheeling, dancing and leg-swinging to the point I got my cleat stuck behind my body in the net of the goal. In attempt to free myself, I also managed to pin both my arms in the net.”
“My mom loves to describe the next part of the story with enthusiasm, because as one might guess, the other team had a sudden chipped ball over the last defender and is then on a breakaway toward me. With a lot of struggle and some miracle, I yanked my body from the net in time to make a diving save. I remember the eruption of parents on the sideline, and the deep scolding I got after the fact.
"The moral of the story, continuing to affect my sporting career, is to stay involved in the play and the closer I am to impacting the ball, the better.”