Wednesday 23 March 2011

One goal of the new NEAFL competition is to reach a similar standard of the strongest domestic leagues like the WAFL and SANFL, according to one of the AFL’s main strategists.

Grant Williams flew from Melbourne to attend the NEAFL Northern Conference launch at South Bank yesterday, joining players, coaches and administrators from the nine south-east Queensland-based teams.

The AFL Development Projects and Strategy Manager has played a key role in laying the groundwork for the new eastern seaboard competition and has high hopes for it.

“We hope it’s a positive change,” Williams told the large gathering at the Plough Inn.

“This is a chance to add to the great history of the QAFL completion. We hope to make second tier football stronger. We hope in the time the NEAFL, over the next five or years or so, becomes in comparative terms equal to the WAFL and SANFL.”

Williams said the fact there were 52 young Queenslanders on AFL lists was a great reflection on Queensland football.

He said the NEAFL would give players a ‘second chance’ at coming under consideration for drafting, provide a quality vehicle for teenage talents, and highlight the qualities of Queensland, Canberra and Sydney football on a national stage.

Williams added that the new competition confirmed the AFL’s commitment to the northern states.

“One of the things that we understand is that while creating two new clubs (the Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney) is one part of the picture, it’s not the only part, the job’s not done,” Williams said.

“We hope that people see by us investing in the NEAFL, they can see we are supporting lower levels of football as well.”

Williams said the positive response of the clubs involved to the NEAFL proposal had helped get it to the stage where it is at now, with all systems go for the opening round starting April 2.

“When we had those meetings in June-July last year when clubs came in with key members of their board and operations people, the way they embraced the concept was terrific,” he said.

“In the last three months there have been rules drafted, accommodation organised, preferred suppliers sorted, travel plans booked – all sorts of things that go around a competition involving two States and two Territories, and I want to acknowledge the terrific input of (AFLQ operations manager) Marty King and support of (AFLQ CE)) Richard Griffiths.

“We look forward to this competition getting bigger and bigger every year.”

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