Top AFL talent on its way
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
THE creme de la creme of NSW's junior AFL talent is set to converge on Coffs Harbour in late January.
It was announced yesterday that the Coffs Coast International Stadium is set to again host another major sporting event, this time the AFL (NSW/ACT) Under-18 State Championships.
The competition enjoyed it's inaugural year at the start of 2006 in Canberra but the destination for 2007 is the Coffs Coast.
These championships will be used as a major selection tool for the NSW state team which will compete at the National Championships in July.
There will be six teams competing, covering various zones across the state including the Northern Heat which covers Northern NSW as well as the Central Coast and Hunter Valley.
It was at last year's championships that Woolgoolga's Evan Duryea forced his way into the NSW team with a string of strong performances for the Heat.
As coach of the NSW Under-18 team, Danny Stevens believes that these championships make his job of trying to select the team a lot simpler because he can cast an eye over the entire state's talent, all at the one time.
"It means less travel for us, last year we did it a little bit different so this year we're going to have one big hitout for three days and just coming to one venue makes it so much easier on the coaching panel," he said.
"As for the players, it's a great opportunity for all the lads from around NSW to put their best foot forward to get state selection."
One of the driving forces behind the formation of the Zone Championships was the state's Talent Manager, Darren Denneman, who believes that the program of these matches covering each age group from under-18 down to the under-13s is essential in developing more elite AFL players from this state.
"I hope that this sort of concept stays in place for three or four years and even beyond. I don't think we're going to see too many results until maybe three or four years down the track," the former Geelong and Sydney player said.
"But by having a very consistent, uniform approach from 13s through to 18s it just makes the process consistent and uniform for every boy who wants to have a go and give them an opportunity to go on to the next level."
Denneman said that when it came to choosing a venue for the 2007 series, Coffs Harbour was a natural choice.
"Just in terms of ground availabilty and the council and working with those people, as well as Regional Manager Chris McKinley putting everything into place, it just made sense ? a first-class venue and we can play our games in the cool of the evening," he added.
"The facilities in terms of accomodation and catering for families and other types of things are first class, so we're keen to have it here."