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.
Whilst the Saints and Tigers had big wins on the weekend, and Crocs continued to build their season, it was the Waratah team that had tongues wagging as they won their third match from four starts and made last year’s horror season a distant memory.
The weekend’s first match saw St Mary’s dish out a lesson in football desperation and tactics when they hammered the Tiwi Bombers by 103 points. The contest was effectively done by half time with the Saints holding a 10 goal lead. Despite kicking the first couple of goals in the final quarter, Tiwi just couldn’t get back into the game – the Saints pressure causing turnovers throughout the game and leading to continual scoring options.
Final Score: St Mary’s 26 14 170 d Tiwi Bombers 9 13 67
Former Cairns Saints junior footballer Jack Bowes sits on the cusp of making some AFL history of his own when the national draft comes around on November 25th. Jack won’t be the first draftee to come from the Far North Queensland city, but he is at unbackable odds to be the highest ranked draft choice to come from Cairns.
Being a member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy since he was just 13, Jack will almost certainly be grabbed by the Suns with their Pick 4 on draft night. But with the vagaries of the draft bidding system, if current number one pick holder, Essendon, were to place a bid for Bowes with their prized pick, thereby forcing the Suns to match the bid, Bowes could go as the draft’s #1 pick. The Giants or Lions could also pull the same trick at #2 and #3. No matter which of these scenarios occurs, Jack is destined to be picked inside the top 5 – a remarkable effort for a humble Cairns lad.
The tropical Far North Queensland city of Cairns has just received arguably its biggest boost for hosting future AFL Premiership matches with the announcement that it will host its sixth consecutive annual AFL event. Despite falling attendances since 2013 when the Richmond v Gold Coast match drew a crowd of over 11,000 people, the current premiers, Western Bulldogs, will headline the 2017 event – the first time Cairns has played host to a reigning premier.
The match will be part of the Round 18 AFL Premiership fixture and be played again in the original twilight timeslot after opting for an evening event in 2016.
The third round of the NTFL season in Darwin was completed yesterday when the Southern Districts Crocs defeated reigning premiers, St Mary’s by 18 points in a tight game at Norbuilt Oval. In other matches, the Nightcliff Tigers continued their tremendous start to the season with a resounding thumping of Palmerston Magpies, Wanderers defeated the Tiwi Bombers and Waratah downed the Darwin Buffaloes.
The Crocs and Saints played a high scoring game. The Saints got away to a good first quarter and again in the third with seven and eight goals respectively. But Crocs kicked seven goals to one in the second quarter, and did what they had to in the last to pull away. With 41 goals kicked for the game it was a defender’s nightmare, but the upshot sees the Crocs now with two wins for the season and just one for Saints.
Final Score: Southern Districts 22 7 139 d St Mary’s 19 7 121
Round Two of the NTFL competition in Darwin was completed on Sunday with two teams, the Wanderers and Nightcliff Tigers, the only undefeated teams in an even start to the season. At the other end of the scale the Tiwi Bombers and Darwin Buffaloes remain winless and will be desperate to turn things around in a hurry.
The Buffaloes faced a fired up St Mary’s unit, fresh from their first round defeat. The Buffaloes led for most of the day, but Saints were always just at arm’s length. It took a four goal to one final quarter (which would have been more but for Saints inaccuracy) to turn the tide in the final quarter.
Final Score: St Marys 17 17 119 d Buffaloes 16 9 105
The AFL National Women's Draft was held in Melbourne today. The 8 foundation clubs of the AFL Women's league set to debut in 2017 added to their initial list of priority picks and rookies with a total of 145 selections in today's draft.
We held out hope that a number of players from Ireland, the US and Canada might be among them but it was not to be. If they are to be a part of the inaugural season they must now hope they can secure a place at one of the clubs during the "free agency period" between now and October 31. Each club will have three places on their list for these players.
Some international connections to footy overseas were however noted.
The momentum continues to build towards the AFL Women's league 2017 kick-off. In less than 24 hours most of the players for the league's inaugural season will have been allocated to clubs via tomorrow's draft to be held in Melbourne.
And for the first time (in men's and women's drafts) there is the possibility that there will be internationals that have learnt and played the game in their own country up for grabs.
The AFL tell us there have been around 1300 players register for the draft, and although they have not issued that list, they have confirmed that Kim Hemenway (USA), Katie Klatt (USA) and Kendra Heil (Canada) have all nominated. They have also confirmed that Aimee Legault (Canada) has unfortunately not nominated despite speculation that she would.
It is also expected there may be a number of Australian based Irish players such as Gill Behan, who plays for the UTS Shamrocks in Sydney, that may be drafted.