Lismore’s flock makes waves on the North Coast

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For season 2021, the Lismore Swans decided that for the first time in its 37-year history it would part ways with the Northern Rivers competition and join AFL North Coast.

The new kids on the (very large) block have made an immediate impact on this rapidly improving footy region, making finals in the senior women’s and senior men’s competitions.

Getting the miles in

In the Northern Rivers competition, Lismore played Byron Bay, Ballina and Tweed Coast. Its opposition now includes Coffs Harbour, Sawtell-Toormina and Grafton, among others.

When the Swans play AFL North Coast’s southernmost team, the Port Macquarie Magpies, they must travel around 350 kilometres each way. Neither club sees it as a hindrance, but an opportunity to form tighter bonds and make lasting memories.

Lismore Swans’ President, women’s founder, former captain and current star, Laura Cahill, said the relationship between Port Macquarie and the Swans has blossomed quickly. Both clubs host a dinner for the visiting team and organise accommodation for those who want to stay the night. (The Swans make a point to show off the Lismore Workers Club to everyone who comes to town.)

When Lismore travelled to Port Macquarie this season, around 25 players stayed overnight. “I think the change of leagues brought a lot of passion back for a lot of players who have been playing against the same group of three teams for the last however many years,” Cahill said. “It’s been a very welcome change, even though the travel is slightly difficult for some people.”

A strong start in AFL North Coast

Despite their respectful relationship, the Swans and the Magpies will be looking to knock each other off in week one of the finals, with the men’s and women’s sides meeting in neutral territory, Coffs Harbour.

The form is a little difficult to pick.

History shows the Swans’ women’s team will come in as favourites and the men will have a bit of work to do. But some recent COVID restrictions have played havoc with the sides and may mess the form lines – it’s anyone’s game.

Regardless of how deep they go into the finals, Lismore has enjoyed being part of AFL North Coast and credit the league’s hardworking administrative staff for helping make the transition into the league as seamless as possible.

Beyond the boundary

Like so many community football clubs, the Lismore Swans considers itself a support network for players and their families. What happens on the field is one thing, but what happens off is equally important.

Cahill believes the club is almost like a family which, “supports each other through all different life stages. Whether that’s having a baby, getting married, working through injuries or whatever it might be.”

It is also a leader in the inclusion space. Its commemorative guernsey for Sir Doug Nicholls Round has now become the club’s full time strip because, “for us, the celebration of culture is really important and footy is a game developed by our First Nations people,” said Cahill.

The Swans also plan to run Pride Round in future seasons, celebrating the LGBTIQ+ community and ensuring that everyone can feel welcome in community football.

Happy road ahead

The Lismore Swans are a proud club with a long history of solid football performances. It’s first season in AFL North Coast proves it will be able to mix it with the top clubs in that league.

We look forward to tracking the Swans’ progress through the finals this year and into the future.