KICKING GOALS: AFL boasts 42% growth in 2017

BATTLE FOR THE BALL: The addition of a new four-team Youth Girls competition for 2017 has helped  participation rates grow in the juniors by 42% since last season.
BATTLE FOR THE BALL: The addition of a new four-team Youth Girls competition for 2017 has helped participation rates grow in the juniors by 42% since last season. Debrah Novak

AUSSIE RULES: Junior AFL has marked itself as one of the fastest growing sports on the North Coast, with a 42% increase in the number of teams recorded ahead of this year's season.

The growth has been highlighted by Nambucca Valley Lions re-joining the competition, Bellingen Bulldogs adding an Under 15.5 team, Northern Beaches Blues entering Under 13s for the first time and Port Macquarie Magpies entering a second team in the Under 11 age group.

Closer to home, the Grafton Tigers are expected to field teams in the Under 11, Under 13, Under 15.5 and Under 18 competitions this season as well as being one of four clubs to take part in the inaugural Youth Girls (13-17) competition.

For club junior president Wayne Phillips it has already felt like a successful season before a ball has even been kicked.

"Our junior ranks are looking quite strong and promising," he said. "We are facing a couple of hurdles with getting some players on to the park due to reformed age restrictions but there is a positive feeling at the club.

"The most positive thing for the club is the fact we have a full book of coaches including a specialised female coach up from Melbourne for our youth girls' side."

While numbers are on the increase at the Tigers club, Phillips said the doors were wide open for any interested juniors who wanted to get a start in the AFL.

North Coast AFL operations co-ordinator Paul Taylor said the association was excited about the prospect of further growth across the fields.

"AFL is growing in popularity year on year. Off the back of the recent visit to the region by the Sydney Swans and the introduction of the AFL women's competition we're seeing boys and girls of all ages wanting to join clubs and play the game," Taylor said.

"Our sport is safe, fun, and inclusive, and promotes physical fitness and teamwork."

Not only is the growth raising eyes across the North Coast, it's also marking the region as one of the fastest growing areas for AFL within NSW and the ACT. Taylor said the volunteer coaches and administrators deserved much of the credit for the code's recent successes.

Topics:  afl aussie rules grafton tigers growth junior footy north coast afl

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