The North Queensland U25 team will face-off against the U18 Queensland Scorpions at Townsville’s Tony Ireland Stadium this Saturday at 1pm.
With North Queensland looking to introduce a team into the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) in the near future, the match will prove something of a test run.
North Queensland Development Manager Craig Starcevich said Saturday’s match was a “first look” at a North Queensland squad.
“It is our first chance to see how a North Queensland state league team might look, as well as the logistics involved in bringing players in from Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton,” said Starcevich.
The proposed North Queensland NEAFL side would compete against teams from South-East Queensland and the Northern Territory in the NEAFL Northern Conference. There would also be cross-conference matches with teams from New South Wales and the A.C.T, who play in the NEAFL Eastern Conference.
Starcevich said the introduction of a NEAFL team would see more opportunities for skilled North Queenslanders to play AFL at a semi-professional level.
At the moment players wanting to play second tier AFL have to travel to South-East Queensland,” he said.
“It’s a massive part of our business we need to address, in terms of the talent in North Queensland being catered for.”
A major problem faced by AFL Queensland is the distance between the towns that would contribute players to a North Queensland NEAFL team.
Starcevich said the infrastructure exists in North Queensland for separate training bases, thanks to the presence of the Gold Coast Suns academy in Capricornia, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.
“Obviously the perfect situation would be to have everyone in the one town together, but their work arrangements may not allow that to happen, given that it is basically a semi-professional league,” he said.
North Queensland coach Anthony Bourke said that this weekend’s game was the first step in the long process of establishing a NEAFL team in North Queensland.
“All the players are on board and the coaching staff is on board; so ultimately we just want to put on a good show so that we can show the AFL that North Queensland can be competitive,” he said.
Bourke said that his side would face some difficulty in the fact that they wouldn’t have much time together before the match.
“It’s going to be hard for us, because obviously we’ll only have one training session to get to know each other before the game,” he said.
“But I’d anticipate that they are all playing good football with their respective leagues and they’ll all be fit and keen to do well.”
The U18 Queensland Scorpions will be in Townsville for a three day camp leading up to Saturday’s match.
“It is a really exciting opportunity and with Townsville being the host we hope a lot of people come out and have a look,” said Starcevich.
The final squad for the North Queensland 25s team was named on Monday.
Shaun Knott (North Cairns Tigers)
Anzac Newman (North Cairns Tigers)
Sam Harkin (Cairns Saints)
Kurt Bradshaw (Port Douglas)
Damien Dewis (South Cairns)
Adam Mueller (North Cairns Tigers)
Damien Rowe (Cairns City Lions)
Darby Walmsley (Hermit Park)
Jason Di Betta (Hermit Park)
Shaun O’Donnell (Thuringowa Bulldogs)
Ricky Lyness (Thuringowa Bulldogs)
Adam McDonald (Curra Swans)
Aaron Wade (Mackay City Hawks)
Nathan Peters (North Mackay Saints)
Sam Dunbar (North Mackay Saints)
Jacob Lowe (Whitsunday Sea Eagles)
Nabako Stow (Mackay City Hawks)
Matthew Laskey (Whitsunday Sea Eagles)
Michael Fisher (Moranbah Bulldogs)
Kyle Emery (Boyne Island/Tannum Sands Saints)
Brandon Chadwick (Glenmore Bulls)
Tyson Payne (Glenmore Bulls)