Local derbies to start 2021 season

Local rivals Sawtell/Toormina and the Coffs Breakers will meet in the opening round of the 2021 season at Fitzroy Oval. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

RIVALRIES will come to the fore when the first bounce of the ball is performed for the 2021 AFL North Coast season.

Saturday will see a pair of local derbies ensure the season gets off to a competitive start. The Coffs Breakers will host Sawtell/Toormina at Fitzroy Oval while competition newcomers the Lismore Swans and Casino will have a Northern Rivers derby in their first match.

Casino returns to competitive footy this weekend. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

The Lions have reformed this year after almost 15 years in recess and coach Rod McKey said his team won’t be one the opposition should take lightly.

“We’ll be competitive. I’m confident we’ll win a few games this year,” McKey said.

Swans coach Ashley Pritchard said off the field the two clubs have put hostilities to one side over summer but he warned there won’t by any such niceties on the field.

“Last year when Casino was trying to get their club up and running again a few of our players went over there to help them get established which I think is fantastic,” Pritchard said.

“It does mean we’re short a few players and won’t have a reserves team this year but hopefully we can fix that.

“It’s just good that there’s another team in the region to play against but at the same time, when the ball is bounced on Saturday, they should know they’re going to be in for a competitive game.

“They’ll be up for it and they’ll know that we’ll be up for it.”

There’s never any love lost when the Coffs Breakers and Sawtell/Toormina meet.

Last year it was the Saints who had the upper hand in the seniors, winning three of the four clashes between the pair. That record included a 35 point win in the Preliminary Final.

It’s a fresh start for the Breakers in 2021 with Kevin Wilson the new coach. He said the Breakers can’t wait for the season to start.

“We’re keen to have a run around and a good first hitout against our arch rival,” Wilson said.

Sawtell/Toormina playing-coach Brandt Lee said there’s “a bit more meaning to the game” when the Saints meet their cross town rival but said this Saturday’s clash has additional weight.

“Being round one and being the Anzac Round as well, it’s just an important game,” Lee said.

“The Anzac game against the Breakers makes it a bit more special.”

There will be four matches played at Fitzroy Oval on Saturday including the women’s clash that will see the Breakers unfurl their premiership flag prior to the start of the match.

The Coffs Breakers women’s team will unfurl their premiership flag at Fitzroy Oval on Saturday. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

Grafton’s senior team will also be unfurling its premiership flag at Ellem Oval.

The day will be an exciting one at Tigerland as it will also see Grafton field a women’s team for the first time as well as being the return to senior football for the Northern Beaches Blues.

It was 2005 when Woolgoolga last played a senior match in the AFL North Coast and Northern Beaches coach Rory Evans said it’s exciting to have the Blues back in the top grade. Playing against the reigning premier as they unfurl their premiership pennant creates more excitement.

“It adds to the nervous energy,” Evans said.

“We’re reasonably happy with where we’re at but you’re nervous until play a couple of teams and see where you measure up against the rest of the competition.

Grafton celebrates kicking a goal during the 2020 AFL North Coast Grand Final. Grafton 8.10 (58) def Sawtell/Toormina 2.8 (20). Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

Another team who will be returning  to the seniors in 2021 is Nambucca Valley.

The Lions have a home game to start the season but will face stiff opposition from Port Macquarie.

The match will start an hour earlier at 1.50pm with all eyes on the Magpies as early reports suggest their season of struggle in 2020 was a one-off aberration.

Round 1 matches

Coffs Breakers v Sawtell/Toormina Saints at Fitzroy Oval, Coffs Harbour

10am – Under-17s; 11.50am – Womens; 1.20pm – Reserves; 2.50pm – Seniors

Grafton Tigers v Northern Beaches Blues at Ellem Oval, Grafton

11.50am – Womens; 1.20pm – Reserves; 2.50pm – Seniors

Lismore Swans v Casino Lions at Oakes Oval, Lismore

2.50pm – Seniors

Nambucca Valley Lions v Port Macquarie Magpies at EJ Biffin Playing Fields

1.50pm – Seniors

Festival of Footy 21. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing