AFL NORTH Coast enters a new era today with the first series of cross-conference matches against teams based in the northern part of the state.

Sawtell-Toormina and Coffs Breakers head to Ballina to take on Byron Bay and the host club respectively.

At Ellem Oval, Grafton hosts Lismore, with Port Macquarie up against Tweed Coast.

"It's all a bit of a mystery but some of the Byron guys we know a bit about," Breakers coach Nic Von Schill said.

"It's been exciting times getting our new group of players together and we're looking for the challenges we'll face, not just against the normal clubs but against the new ones also," Von Schill said.

"Hopefully it will spark new life into the league and footy will really start going ahead," he said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the new format is a success, it becomes a permanent thing."

The Breakers and Saints face new teams in today’s groundbreaking round.
The Breakers and Saints face new teams in today’s groundbreaking round. Gemima Harvey

Von Schill was undaunted by the first-round loss to Port Magpies and said his men would become fitter.

"There's no sense going full tilt at the start and burning out before the end of the season," he said.

"Our match fitness will improve week by week but the good things is the learning curve for the blokes who step up each week."



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