FIRST BOUNCE: Eagles, Bombers take flight for footy season
AFL continues to make its mark in the Wide Bay as the 2021 local women's competition starts this weekend with a grand final replay.
ATW Eagles will take on Hervey Bay Bombers on Saturday for Round 1 of the Takalvans AFL Wide Bay 2021 Women's Competition in Bundaberg.
Meanwhile, Gympie is hosting a match between the Cats and Bay Power, and Bulldogs has a bye.
Eagles' Kayla Osborn is ready run back onto the field, donning the blue and yellow after having a baby.
She said the team was excited to be back and taking on Bombers in Round 1, having already played a trial match.
"We did pick up a few things coming out of the trial game that we can take into this weekend's game against Bombers: just little things like kicking to a target in our 50, making sure that our forwards can take the mark rather than letting it spill onto the ground and it becoming scrappy," she said.
Osborn said they've picked up some new players who've impressed the team and have juniors who've stepped up to the women's division who were eager to chase the win against Bombers.
She said it was "awesome" to see the competition now in its fourth season.
"I remember the first season when we started we were training four or five girls to now when we've got at least 20 girls to every training," she said.
"I know some teams have struggled the past two years getting numbers, but I know us and the Hervey Bay teams we're just growing bigger and stronger so it's really good.
"To see younger girls coming through too, 15 and 16-year-old girls wanting to come play, it's just going to keep getting bigger and bigger which is a good thing.
"It's amazing to see how much it's grown just in the past couple of years."
The fun times and good memories made on the footy field was at the heart of Osborn's AFL experience.
She said the team camaraderie, having a kick and a laugh at training while making new friends and kicking goals against Bombers was the goal.
Osborn said this year the Eagles packed a strong midfield, powerful kickers, players who can mark and versatile players who can rotate through the midfield.
AFL Wide Bay community relationships coordinator Mark Mason said this year there was a slight change to the draw.
Rather than the minor premier going through to the grand final, they will play the team in fourth for a spot at the big dance in "sudden death".
While second plays third for a grand final spot.
"It's a full round of home and away matches this year, so every team gets to play each other at home and away," he said.
While it's anyone game at this point, Mason said the Bombers have been the benchmark team in the local comp, and the Gympie Cats might be this year's "dark horse".
The Brothers Bulldogs is the second Bundaberg team and Emily Reinke said she was looking forward to playing again after the pandemic cut the last season short.
"Our main goal would just be to improve every week, to win a couple of games would be good, but that just that improvement overall," she said.
Reinke said they had been working hard in the pre-season, focusing on fitness and ball skills.
Griffin Webb is the new Brothers Bulldog coach and is looking forward to the season ahead.
Training since November, he said the most important thing was that the team had fun as they try to catch Hervey Bay.
Webb said a lot of the new Bulldog recruits were from local high schools and the Brothers women's rugby league team.
From the camaraderie and mate ship to the competitiveness on game day, Webb said there wasn't much about the sport he didn't enjoy.
Eager to share his knowledge of the game and grow the sport, Webb said there was still a few spots left on the team.
For anyone wanting to wear Bulldog colours, training is 6pm on Thursdays at Brothers AFL Grounds.
Determined to grow the women's competition, AFL Wide Bay is giving young AFL players more opportunity with a free youth girls development program for 14, 15 and 16 year-olds.
Mason said the program would see a Bundaberg team play against a Hervey Bay team.
Starting on Wednesday, February 17, the six-week program will see girls train at one of two venues before coming together to play full games.
Mason said for anyone interested "get involved, there's no excuses now".
The Bundaberg program will be held at Shalom College from 5.30pm, while the Hervey Bay program is at Hervey Bay Bomber JAFC, Raward Rd from 6pm.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0439 721 874.
Head down to Frank Coulthard Oval, 22 Clayton Rd, Thabeban at 3pm to watch the Eagles take on the Bombers.
Entry is free.
Remember to observe social distancing and COVID-19 regulations.