New AFL North Coast season sees Saints chasing history
AFL action returns to local ovals this weekend with the opening round of both the senior and junior competitions.
The senior competition gets underway today with reigning premier Sawtell/Toormina unfurling its premiership flag at Richardson park ahead of the match against Port Macquarie.
The Coffs Breakers start their season with a trip up to Grafton, an assignment that should prove a lot more difficult in 2017 than it has in recent times thanks to some strong off-season recruiting by the Tigers.
Cross Conference action is set return this season with matches to be played against the clubs from the Northern Rivers League.
This format proved so popular last season that the format has expanded in 2017, with each club having the chance to host two rounds.
Last season's competition was one of the most even on record and hopes are high this year will prove just as exciting.
THE Saints are favourites to win an AFL North Coast record equalling fourth consecutive premiership.
Jim Angel will be steering the ship this season and is joined in the coaching ranks by Luke Matthews who has quickly marked himself as being just as astute a coach as he is a player.
The Saints chances have been boosted every bit as much by the players who have decided to stay as by their new recruits.
A number of players planned to head south but a change in circumstances has seen them stay put.
Callum and Lachie Day have both been accepted into Southern Cross University while Leif Stuart and Hamish Bird have both found romance.
Meanwhile three time League Best & Fairest winner Mark Couzens has shelved any plans to retire for at least another 12 months.
The Breakers came so far in 2016 only to fall at the final hurdle.
The grand final loss hurt the entire club and was enough to prompt player/coach Nic von Schill to stay around to try and right the wrong.
Von Schill is joined in the clipboard department by Darren Funston who was forced into playing retirement by a ruptured Achilles in last season's 2nd Semi Final.
The Breakers have lost big Patty Curtain, Sam Hardes, and Nathan Hay to Grafton but will be boosted by the return to full fitness of key players such as 2016 League Best and Fairest winner Fraser Duryea and Jacob Sincock.