Juniors lead the way into Finals

The Port Macquarie Swoopers claimed second spot on the Under-15s ladder with a win over Northern Beaches. Photo: Brad Greenshields

Finals fever hits AFL North Coast this Sunday with the staging of the Semi Finals in the Junior Competition.

After a heavily disrupted season due to the wet weather, all participating teams will be viewing the Semis as a just reward for their resilience and persistence.

“Nearly all of our Junior clubs have managed to get at least one team through to the Semis,” said Paul Taylor, Community Football Manager.

“This really highlights how much the game has grown and developed across the region. No longer are the Semis the domain of two or three dominant clubs. All of our clubs are able to mix it across a season and are to be commended for the job they’re doing of developing quality junior footballers.”

For the first time in AFL North Coast history, the Semi Finals will be contested across five age groups with the Youth Girls 14 joining the action. Winners of matches involving first versus fourth, and second versus third, will progress straight to the Grand Finals at C.ex Coffs International Stadium on Sunday 28 August.

In Under 11 action, Port Macquarie Swoopers take on Sawtell Toormina Saints, whilst Port Macquarie Flyers are drawn against Northern Beaches Blues.

The Swoopers have lost only one match this season, but this happened to be last week so the team will be looking for a quick rebound and response. On the other side of the coin, Sawtell recorded a clutch win last week to sneak into fourth place and seal a place in the Finals race.

Port Macquarie Flyers and Northern Beaches Blues are very evenly matched, with the Flyers having the better of the results between the two teams. However, both of those matches were played on the same day in Port Macquarie in response to an earlier wash out and should be discounted when trying to draw a form line.

The first ever Semis in the Youth Girls 14 age group sees Northern Beaches Blues up against Coffs Harbour Breakers, while Bellingen Bulldogs go head to head with Nambucca Valley Lions.

Based on ladder position, Northern Beaches and Bellingen are strong favourites, however both Breakers and Nambucca have steadily grown their depth over the course of the season, are getting better week on week, and are not to be under estimated.

This new age group has been a raging success irrespective of Sunday’s results and will ensure that the future quantity and quality of girls and women’s footy will continue to grow on the North Coast.

The Under 13 Semis draws Nambucca Valley Lions against Coffs Harbour Breakers, and Port Macquarie Flyers against Port Macquarie Swoopers. This is the closest age group with very little between all four teams.

Nambucca and Breakers have each recorded one win over their opponent. Despite the Lions more prominent position on the ladder, Breakers were able to claim a victory last Sunday down in the Lions’ den and will be looking forward to a second trip to Nambucca within the space of a week to face the same opponent.

The two Port teams get on fantastically well, but there will be no love lost in the local derby Semi Final. This match isn’t just to see which team progresses to a Grand Final, it’s also to see which group of players have the bragging rights over their mates across the hot summer months!

The matches in the Youth Girls 17 age group sees Bellingen Bulldogs up against Grafton Tigers, with Sawtell Toormina Saints taking on Coffs Breakers.

Bellingen and Sawtell have been not only the form teams of the season, but also the last two years and are favoured to earn the right to meet in a third straight Grand Final.

Breakers are a team on the rise who are finding their feet and will be primed to pull off an upset in their local derby with Sawtell. The girls from Grafton should never be written off and will be looking to cause one of the biggest upsets in their history in this age group.

The Under 15 Semis pit Nambucca Valley Lions against Coffs Harbour Breakers, and Port Macquarie Swoopers against Northern Beaches Blues.

A fluke in the draw meant that these exact match ups took place in the last round, where the Lions and Swoopers claimed comfortable wins. This is a good indicator of how the results might go, but expect the Breakers and Blues to put in a much improved performance in the Semis.

Full details of the match schedule and locations can be found here.