By Ant Wingard
Football in Northern Queensland has once again been painted green as the Cape York Crusaders soared to victory in the 2018 U16 North Queensland Academy Championships last weekend.
The Crusaders went undefeated throughout the tournament, winning all four games with an average margin of 33.5 points, en route to their seventh consecutive championship title.
Big wins against Townsville and Capricornia laid a foundation for the team’s success, however it was the ability to edge out their rivals in close games which ultimately Cape York the ultimate success.
A 17-point victory over Mackay and a gritting five-point win over rivals Cairns, in the game of the carnival, were the highlight of the Crusaders’ tournament.
In their showdown with their northern neighbours, Cairns, the Crusaders mounted a fast start on their rivals, piling on four goals with the benefit of a strong breeze.
But as the game progressed, and Cairns too profiting from the wind, a comeback was mounted as the Cairns midfield lifted.
With a mere 90 seconds remaining on the clock, Cairns hit the lead by a solitary point.
Cape York weren’t done though and a quick centre clearance from captain Walter Nona provided Tristian Leo the opportunity to clinch the game. And he did, sealing the five-point victory for the Crusaders.
Queensland U16 head coach Adrian Fletcher attended the carnival, stating his satisfaction with the quality of play from the competing teams.
“There are six or seven really exciting players who will definitely be in contention for a state jumper, Fletcher said.
“I can’t wait to see these boys play at the championships in May.”
From the carnival, an U16 North Queensland representative squad was selected for the State Championships held in Brisbane in May.
The squad will come together in Mackay shortly before for a pre-carnival camp.
The North Queensland championships not only represent a chance to win plaudits and bragging rights in the north, but as a clear talent pathway for potential AFL success. Current Gold Coast Suns Jack Bowes was among those who have competed in the carnival, playing for Cairns in 2015.
Each region in the North Queensland Championships could select 23 players. In accordance with AFL Queensland’s U17 program, seven overage players, turning 17 in 2018, can feature in the carnival with the remainder falling into the U16 age bracket.
Players of the Carnival
Capricornia Bradley Francis
Townsville Jack Cream
Mackay Jackson Hamann
Cairns Alex Davies
Cape York Euwanie Mairu