By Ant Wingard
Battle lines will be drawn in Queensland on July 14 as North Queensland and South Queensland face off in an intra-state showdown as a curtain closer to the NEAFL clash between Aspley and Southport.
The annual North v South representative contest will be a twilight match at the Hornet’s Graham Road facility at 4.30pm, pitting some of the best local footballers from across the state against one another.
This season will mark the fifth instalment of the rivalry, with the ledger sitting even at 2-2 for both representative sides, making the stakes to clinch state-wide bragging rights the highest they’ve ever been.
Both representative sides will select from vast talent pools within each team’s respective regions.
South Queensland will be represented by players from QFA clubs in the south-east region, as well as the Wide Bay, Darling Downs and Northern Rivers leagues.
North Queensland will foster its players from leagues in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Capricornia and Mt Isa.
For the first time, North Queensland will have the previous year’s coach return, with Port Douglas mentor Brad Cooper reappointed, whilst Danny Craven will return for a third consecutive year to lead the South Queensland team.
AFLQ State Football Operations Manager, Barry Gibson, said the program has grown from strength to strength over the past five years.
“We have worked hard to build the standing and reputation of this program, and the player buy-in we have achieved, particularly over the past two years, is testament to the regard in which it is held,” he said.
“The game is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the best players we have in both our regional leagues and QFA competitions.
“We are delighted to have two quality coaches leading these programs and their standing in football certainly assists in our endeavours to provide players with a quality experience.”
South Queensland coach, Danny Craven, said the representative game is a fascinating proposition and provides a chance for footballers to represent the state.
“I think the concept gives all of the players that aren’t playing at the absolute top level the chance to represent their region at a representative level and I think it’s a wonderful concept,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that geographically bringing together 22 different guys is difficult because we’re talking about a 500-600-kilometre spread. The North have the same challenge as us, but I think that’s what makes the showdown intriguing.”
North Queensland coach Brad Cooper mirrored Craven’s comments, suggesting a genuine rivalry is emerging as one team looks to get the upper hand.
“The south has definitely set the standard over the last couple of years and it’s now up to us to regain some momentum,” he said.
“Each side has two wins each, so this next one probably holds a high significance in regard to someone edging out the other with a 3-2 lead.
“It’s obviously a great opportunity for the players to represent their region because it’s quite a big one geographically. It gives the individual players a chance to try themselves against strong opposition, who have had the best of us in the last two years.”
Since the game’s inception in 2014, both the north and south have tasted victory on consecutive occasions. Ironically the spoils have always gone to the travelling team.
First, for the north, who did the double of their rivals in 2014 and 2015. South Queensland regained pride in last year with a convincing 30-point victory over the North; making it two in a row for the southerners.