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.
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.
Back in the 2010/11 season, the Nightcliff Tigers claimed the wooden spoon. With just three wins for the season and some horrible score-lines, the Tigers as a club knew things had to change. And they did. Since then they have been a perennial finalist but their next premiership has eluded them – possibly until this year.
On Saturday the tigers mauled the Tiwi Bombers in their semi-final. Not only does that see the Tigers through to the 2018/19 grand-final, they have also earned outright favouritism after dismantling the Bombers by 90 points on the weekend and having hammered the Southern Districts Crocs, also by 90 points, in the final home and away round.
For either of those teams to win grand-final day, it would take a massive form turnaround, and it is hard to see the Nightcliff crew relinquishing their dominance.