GAME PLAN: ‘Festival of footy’ to help bolster regional AFL
In a move to put the future of local footy between the posts, AFL Wide Bay is encouraging the region's youngsters to get off the bench and in the game.
AFL Wide Bay community relationships co-ordinator Mark Mason said there would be a junior come-and-try day at the end of the Youth Girls Program event at Shalom College this weekend.
"It's a festival of footy of sorts this Sunday starting at 9am," Mason said.
"Any kids that are of the age between 8 and 12 years old are welcome to come and have a go; it costs nothing, you don't have to register, it's just purely a fun, footy for fun event."
Anyone who's ever thought about playing footy before is urged to head along.
Mason said this event gave parents and guardians an opportunity to meet people in the local AFL scene and give their kids a chance to have fun and make new friends.
He said the Youth Girls Program had been popular.
"We had a game three weeks ago down in Hervey Bay where the Hervey Bay girls played the Bundaberg girls, which a lot of girls made themselves available for and made the effort to go down which was awesome," Mason said.
"That was also integrated with the Brisbane Lions Boys Academy training where they had some AFLX games."
Mason said this weekend they were also inviting the Wide Bay secondary school girls' team to come along and participate.
He said AFL Wide Bay were concentrating a lot on youth and junior footy this year.
"With the success of the Brisbane Lions, the Gold Coast Suns aren't far behind the Brisbane Lions, and we've had the AFL Grand Final in Brisbane last year, I think we've got to be ready and prepared when children in schools want to pick up a Sherrin and have a kick," he said.
"And we've got to be prepared as a local organisation to meet that demand."
Mason said every junior player that registers with a club before April 2 receives a free footy and pump.
Find out more by contacting local clubs or visit play.afl.
As for local senior football, the 2021 AFLWB Takalvans women's competition is well underway and the senior men's Marquis Macadamias 2021 season is just a few weeks away from its first bounce.
Mason said it was fantastic to have Marquis Macadamias on board again this year for the senior men's comp.
He said this year's season looked to be just as exciting as ever, with rep footy in the middle of the season, Anzac Day match at Brothers and the grand final in Maryborough.
"We have four local senior teams in the competition," he said.
"Maryborough are playing reserves again, they've probably boosted their numbers in reserves over the last couple of years and they've been able to sustain that, which is important."
Mason said the season would start two weeks before the Anzac Day clash which pits local rivals against one another: Bundaberg v Bundaberg and Hervey Bay v Hervey Bay.
He said it wouldn't have been possible to for AFL Wide Bay keep the men's season going amid COVID restrictions last year without the support of local businesses like Marquis.
While the off-season wasn't as long this year, Mason's expecting the players to be fitter and their skills sharpers than they typically would be after a break.
ATW Eagles senior coach Jimmy Power said after putting in some good pre-season work they were "itching" to get back on the field.
The Eagles' focus this year was to improve 2020 and continue playing with the momentum they finished playing with last season.
While he's played AFL since he was 16, Power's looking forward to taking over the senior coaching position and he confident the season ahead will be a great one with the 2021 team.
For Power it's the social aspect of playing local footy that keeps him coming back.
"[I'm] really proud of the effort for the guys last year - I don't think we went into the grand final last year as favourites," he said.
"We were three goals down at ¾ time, so it was a massive comeback to get the boys over the line…
"It's been really good to see them all coming back, getting excited to have another crack at it this year."
Round 7 of the women's comp is on Saturday.
There will be a match between ATW Eagles and Brothers Bulldogs at Brothers at 3pm.
The Eagles are currently top of the ladder.