AFL North Coast is set to celebrate a 40th birthday to remember.
The AFL North Coast’s 40th season is set to kick off on Saturday, 24 April, with Round 1 matches played across the North Coast in Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Nambucca Heads and Lismore.
2021 will see a 14-round competition with a four-week finals series culminating with the grand final on Saturday, 4 September.
To celebrate it’s upcoming 40th season, AFL North Coast will be holding a Festival of Footy pre-season carnival on Saturday 17 April.
It will a celebration of football in the region featuring all eight Senior teams, all seven Women’s teams plus special guests Ballina Women, with matches played across three grounds at C.ex Coffs International Stadium and Leisure Park
A special function will be held on the evening of the Festival of Footy to celebrate the 40th consecutive season of the AFL North Coast competition.
Community Football and Competition Manager for AFL North Coast, Paul Taylor, said AFL North Coast provided a pulse for many communities.
“Footy is loved right up and down the North Coast, it’s been that way for 40 years and we’re proud to see our game go from strength to strength in this area,” he said.
Recent premiership winners the Coffs Harbour Breakers and Sawtell/Toormina Saints will clash in their local derby to open the 2021 season during Round 1 at Fitzroy Oval.
The Saints knocked the Breakers out of the premiership race the last time they met with a victory in last season’s preliminary final.
The Saints will be out to go one better after finishing runners up to the Grafton Tigers in season 2020.
The Grafton Tigers begin their premiership defence at home when they host the Northern Beaches Blues.
The Tigers won their first flag in seven years last season, while the Blues will make a return to first grade competition after coming back to senior’s footy with a reserve’s premiership in 2019.
The competition’s newest members the Lismore Swans and Casino Lions get their season underway in their local derby at Oakes Oval.
Both the Swans and Lions enter this year’s AFL North Coast competition having previously played in the Northern Rivers competition.
The Lions last played a senior’s match in 2017, while the Swans look to bounce back from a tough 2020 season in which they had 14 losses and 2 draws.
Last season’s reserves premiers the Nambucca Valley Lions make the step up to seniors’ competition this season, and launch into their 2021 campaign with an opening round match at home against the Port Macquarie Magpies.
The Magpies had a rare down year in 2020 winning the wooden spoon.
The Sawtell/Toormina Saints and Grafton Tigers meet in their grand final rematch during Round 7 on Saturday, 5 June at Richardson Park.
The Saints and Breakers meet in their second local derby of the season during Round 8 on Saturday, 19 June at Richardson Park.
The AFL North Coast women’s competition also gets underway on Saturday, 24 April.
The fourth women’s competition will feature seven teams after only having three in 2020.
Community Football and Competition Manager for AFL North Coast, Paul Taylor, said it was great to see the women’s competition more than double in teams in one season.
“It’s really exciting to see such growth in women’s footy in just one season,” he said.
“The Coffs Harbour Breakers had a great season last year, but it’s a real unknown as to how the new teams will go this year, I can’t wait to see how they all go.”
2019 premiers the Port Macquarie Magpies return after a season off, while the Grafton Tigers and Nambucca Valley Lions enter women’s teams for the first time.
The Lismore Swans also make their debut in the AFL North Coast competition, after being the recent dominant force in the Northern Rivers competition.
The Coffs Harbour Breakers begin their premiership defence at home when they take on 2018 premiers the Sawtell/Toormina Saints in their local derby at Fitzroy Oval.
The Grafton Tigers make their debut by hosting the Northern Beaches Blues, while the Nambucca Valley Lions play their first ever match with a Round 1 clash at home against the Port Macquarie Magpies.
The Lismore Swans have the opening round bye and play their first ever AFL North Coast match in Round 2 against the Port Macquarie Magpies in Lismore.
The Coffs Harbour Breakers and Northern Beaches Blues meet in their grand final rematch during Round 2 at Centennial Oval.
By Aiden BURGESS