The North Queensland city of Mackay sits on the cusp of a day of redemption. Last season the hopes of the local community were dashed by Mother Nature when a week long deluge of rain washed out their scheduled match at Harrup Park, the epicentre of Australian Rules football in Mackay.
Locals were disappointed when the unceasing downpours washed out the highly anticipated pre-season AFL match between St Kilda – featuring local hero, David Armitage – and the Brisbane Lions.
But this year the tropical city could be on the verge of one of the most exciting and important games of the pre-season. In a little over a month’s time, the Gold Coast Suns will take on the Essendon Bombers in a match where both teams have much at stake, even if it is the JLT Community Series rather than a premiership season match. Mackay effectively replaced Townsville as the northern Queensland centre for pre-season matches, but got off to a very wet and soggy start.
After successive years being held in the tropics of Queensland, this year’s National Diversity Championships will move to western Sydney. Blacktown will become the hub of entertainment after Townsville hosted the event in 2016 and Cairns in 2015. It is the first time the event has been in New South Wales since being held in Coffs Harbour in 2014.
According to the http://www.afl.com.au website, “the National Diversity Championships encompass the National U15 Kickstart and the National U15 All Nations Cup. The 2017 National Diversity Championships will be held in Blacktown, Sydney from Saturday 8th to Thursday 13th of April.”
“The championships provide the pathway into our Flying Boomerangs and World Team programs.”
(Picture: Western Australia took out both titles in 2016)
An AFL Evolution is coming in 2017 when the AFL and the AFL Players’ Association release an exciting new video game featuring the best male players from the Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
AFL Evolution is currently in production with AFL licensee Tru Blu Entertainment and in conjunction with Wicked Witch Software. It will be available on next generation consoles PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC Steam.
Due for release in the first half of 2017, AFL General Manager Commercial Operations Darren Birch acknowledged the importance of video games as a tool to enhance entertainment for fans.
Round Three this year and the Southern Districts Crocs downed St Mary’s by three goals. It was the Saints’ second loss in three rounds, going down in the season opener to Nightcliff, and only a big last quarter saw a win against the Darwin Buffaloes. Last year’s premiers were looking shaky, and attention turned to the all-conquering Tigers as they dominated all teams.
But Crocs had just poked the bear.
Since that day, Saints have gone on a rampaging seven match winning streak. That in itself is nothing new – plenty of teams have achieved that. But what is actually frightening is the carnage they have created in doing so. Their seven wins have seen them play most teams in the league (so far only thee Buffaloes have been spared in this current streak), and along that journey their average winning margin is over 100 points – that is frightening in any football league.
The Australian Football League (AFL) today announced it would partner with Australia-wide Insurance Broker JLT (Jardine Lloyd Thompson) for the pre-season competition for the next three years, with today’s launch of the JLT Community Series in Melbourne.
AFL General Manager Clubs and AFL Operations Travis Auld joined with JLT Chief Executive Leo Demer to announce the fixture for the 2017 JLT Community Series, which will see all 18 teams play three matches across a four-week stretch between Thursday February 16 and Sunday March 12, to lead into the 2017 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
‘JLT is the National Insurance Broker for the AFL, our 18 clubs and the State Associations across the country, with a relationship now of 13 years with football from the grassroots through to elite level of the game,” Mr Auld said
Whilst much has already been made of Essendon’s selection of Canadian born number one selection, Andrew McGrath (see Made In Canada, this draft had its usual share of certainties, surprises, sliders, bolters and great stories. But from a northerner’s point of view, this draft has certainly recognised the talent coming out of leagues across northern Australia.
To go from the Halls Creek Hawks to the Carlton Blues in just three years is a remarkable journey for Sam Petrevski-Seton. Leaving behind the vistas of The Kimberley in northern Western Australia, Petrevski-Seton was nabbed at pick number 6 by the Blues. According to The West Australian newspaper “one of his biggest challenges in moving to Perth three years ago was remembering to speak standard Australian English, rather than the Kriol he used back home in Halls Creek.”
Cedric Cox was grabbed by the Brisbane Lions with pick 24 and became the second player from Halls Creek. The small town is a little less than 3000 kilometres from the state capital, Perth, yet Cox and Petrevski-Seton have both defied distance to start their careers in the AFL.
It was very disappointing for international footy followers at the end of the AFL Women's draft when no international players (by IC rules at least) were selected. Kate Shierlaw and Lauren Spark were on the lists which was some vindication of the footy played in London, but they were still Aussie women.
So it would come down to the free agency period, and fortunately there would be an international foot in the door. Firstly Collingwood added Canadian Kendra Heil to their list. Perhaps missing out on the draft as she missed most of the 2016 season due to a serious ACL injury, Heil was also close to being drafted in 2015 (when there were just the two women's teams for the exhibition match).
Cardwell sits midway between the northern Queensland cities of Cairns and Townsville. Both suffer from, and tolerate, the November heat but the grass doesn’t. Completely brown, devoid of life and feeling like sandpaper, the surface of the Cardwell oval was a challenge in itself.
The football gods must have been in a benevolent mood, however, providing occasional light showers and cloud cover to make the temperature and conditions agreeable.
First up was the feature match – the championship match of AFL Masters Over 35’s season, playing for the highly coveted Cardwell Cup. The Cairns Stingers took the field against the Townsville Sharks. The rivalry is always intense between these two cities – whether playing footy, backgammon or chess – but with the ageing teams determined to relive yesteryear, this game was serious.
The NTFL season is beginning to get away from some of the teams in the lower reaches of the ladder. With just five rounds of eighteen completed, the Darwin Buffaloes and Tiwi Bombers are winless. They both sit three games away from the top five already. The Palmerston Magpies have fared little better with just one win – a narrow eight point first round win against the hapless Bombers.
It is way too early to be writing any team off, but history suggests that a 0-5 or even 1-4 start to a season is very hard to come back from. Most worrying has been the gulf in scores, and this weekend’s round illustrates that.
The Magpies went down to Wanderers by 67 points and the Buffaloes went down to the rampant Nightcliff by 73 points. Tiwi Bombers were gallant against the Southern District Crocs, going down in the end by 23 points after clawing back a bigger margin with a six goal last quarter in front of a home crowd.