Swans Community Camp deepens Coffs connection

Sydney Swans players outline a fun game during the Super Clinic held at C.ex Coffs International Stadium. Photo: City of Coffs Harbour


TO SEE 205 kids scurrying around the Coffs Harbour International Stadium this week at a Sydney Swans Super Clinic, gladdened the heart of this good old Coffs boy. 

It is a far cry from the first footy clinic run by two then-VFL players from Melbourne at the Coffs Harbour High School in 1978 that attracted a dozen boys to the school’s rugby league field after school.

Footy has come a long way in the Coffs region since the first match was played in the middle of Coffs Harbour Racecourse in 1977. The Sydney Swans have been instrumental in growing the game at the grassroots level. The first footballs for the newly formed Coffs Harbour football club came from South Melbourne through the agency of Development Officer and star winger David McLeish.

The footballs from the Swans were a real morale booster for the Coffs footy club.

Sydney Swans veteran Sam Reid offers marking instructions to a young player at the Coffs Harbour Super Clinic. Photo: Brad Greenshields

When the first Coffs Harbour club was formed, there was no ground and no competition to play in.

The nearest clubs were Lismore to the north, Newcastle to the south, and Armidale over the Dorrigo plateau to the west.

But there was an enthusiasm and a vision for the game in stages, firstly, a club, then a local competition, and then, junior and school competitions. That has been largely fulfilled.

The 2023 season saw seven clubs stretching from Byron Bay to Port Macquarie in both men’s and women’s divisions. Additionally, there were 10 junior clubs including the Bellingen, Lower Clarence Suns, North Coffs and South West Rocks for boys and girls of all ages.

So how was a lack of a ground and a competition overcome? 

Fortunately, a member of the original committee was in town planning at the local council and helped to secure England’s Park at Coffs Harbour Jetty, and the University students that ran the competition in Armidale let Coffs Harbour join. Their teams loved coming to the coast for the weekend!

Within two years, there were two clubs, Souths and Norths, and in 1982 a local competition was formed with South Coffs and North Coffs joined by Grafton, Port Macquarie, Woolgoolga and Urunga who wore the Hawks colours.

The Swans support for footy in Coffs continued after their permanent arrival in Sydney. During a bye in the 1984 season, Swans Development officers led by vice-captain Mark Browning came to Coffs to conduct clinics at schools and to watch a local game between South Coffs Swans and the Woolgoolga Blues.

That support has continued with the community camps and pre-season matches against opposition AFL clubs over the past 30 years which has given the game a real impetus in Coffs Harbour.

For more history of footy on the North Coast go to:

Errol Gulden tries to break away from a Sydney Swans teammate during the club’s intra-club match simulation held at C.ex Coffs International Stadium in January 2024. Photo: Brad Greenshields