If this year was next year, and the QAFL was the NEAFL it will become, Morningside would have played two grand finals in a week.

Friday, 12 November, 2010

One team from what was in the QAFL State League will play two grand finals in a week in 2011 under a two-conference North-East Australian Football League.

While there are still many details to be unveiled, the twin finale is part of an exciting new format launched yesterday by the AFL to unite domestic football in the north-eastern parts of Australia.

As the AFL media release stated, it is a competition with a clear charter to “create a League that engages communities in Queensland, NT, NSW and ACT in an interstate competition, and also incorporates the second-tier teams of the four AFL clubs in Queensland and NSW”.

Accordingly, it will involve traditional domestic club teams from Brisbane (4), Gold Coast (3), and Canberra (5) with the combined Northern Territory Thunder side, which will again have a split base in Darwin and Alice Springs, and Reserves teams from the four northern AFL clubs – Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney.

The AFL has kept a lock on specifics of the NEAFL draw – even when it will be announced – but AFL Queensland Football Operations Manager Martin King has confirmed that for pre-existing QAFL teams there will be little change in 2011.

There will still be the equivalent of a QAFL grand final n south-east Queensland in September to determine the premier side in the 10-team NEAFL Northern Conference .
This conference will comprise Brisbane-based club teams Morningside, Redland, Mt.Gravatt and Aspley, Gold Coast-based club teams Southport, Labrador and Broadbeach, the NT Thunder, plus the Lions Reserves and Suns Reserves.

And players in this competition will still be playing for, among other individual awards, the Grogan Medal for the Conference’s Best & Fairest Player, and the Ray Hughson, for the Conference’s leading goal-kicker.

The significant change comes the week after, when the Northern Conference premiers will play the premiers from the seven-team Eastern Conference, which will comprise Canberra-based club teams Ainslie, Belconnen, Eastlake, Queanbeyan and Tuggeranong, plus the Sydney Swans Reserves and GWS.

This match will be for the overall NEAFL premiership, and for Northern Conference premiers will be the culmination of an 18-round home-and-away season, probably played over 20 weeks, and a five-team finals series.

The Suns Reserves will effectively take the place of the Western Magpies, who announced in September that they would relinquish their first division license to return next year to the Pineapple Hotel Cup.

But the Suns Reserves and Lions Reserves will confront a different challenge to the traditional QAFL clubs, with a tougher draw and more travel.

They will play a total of seven matches each against corresponding AFL-aligned opposition – three against each other in south-east Queensland and two each against the Swans Reserves and GWS on a home-and-away basis.

In these games player restrictions that apply against non-AFL-aligned teams will be scrapped to maximize the match experience for as many as possible of the club’s prospective AFL players.

The Lions Reserves and Suns Reserves will play a further 11 games against teams previously from the QAFL.

Exact details of the schedule for the traditional QAFL clubs have not been released, but it is confirmed that, as was the case in 2010, each club will travel to the NT to play the Thunder, either in Darwin or Alice Springs.

There will be a cross-conference round that will allow traditional QAFL clubs to play against teams from what was previously the Canberra-based AFL ACT competition.

The cross-conference games in 2011 will be on the weekends on which the four AFL-aligned clubs are playing each other, and will increase as the NEAFL is further established in the years ahead.

It has been tipped that the Northern Conference and Eastern Conference Grand Finals will be scheduled for the second weekend of the AFL finals series, with the overall NEAFL Grand Final on AFL preliminary final weekend, but this is still to be confirmed.

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