NEAFL Northern coach, Jason Cotter, knows this weekend’s clash with the SANFL is about more than just winning.
A win, or even a competitive showing, against the crow eaters would raise the status of the NEAFL in the eyes of recruiters and potential players.
Cotter is more than aware of the challenge that the SANFL will present, but said his side would be able to make a statement in Adelaide on Saturday.
“We’re going to have to do a lot right to be competitive,” he said.
“It’s really important that we put up a good showing so our young talent coming through sees the NEAFL as a viable competition in which to improve their football.”
Captained by NT Thunder captain Cameron Ilett, the Queensland/ NT side also includes a number of former AFL players, including Brisbane Lions 100-gamer, Cheynee Stiller.
Ilett is one of a number of players, along with Wayde Mills, Nick Hayes and Brad Vassal, returning to their former stomping ground on Saturday, having played in the SANFL previously.
The side was dealt a major blow this week, with Southport veteran and last year’s captain, Danny Wise, ruled out with a quad injury.
Aspley’s Austin Lucy (groin) and Labrador’s Todd Grayson (leg) also withdrew with injury.
Despite the late shuffling, Cotter said he had faith that the players who were available would step up.
“I’ve been coaching state footy since 2005. It’s par for the course,” he said.
“You just make the necessary adjustments and it gives other guys a chance to understand what their role’s going to be.”
“There’s no point being worried about stuff you can’t control.”
One thing is for sure – the NEAFL side know exactly what they’re up against.
As well as a number of the NEAFL players having played in the SANFL, selectors travelled to the SANFL in recent weeks to get a firsthand look at their opponents.
“We’ve seen all the players in their squad,” Cotter said.
While the SANFL might be going in as hot favourites, their coach, Michael Godden, isn’t counting his chickens before they hatch.
Godden said he was not overly confident heading into the game, and would not be taking the NEAFL side lightly.
“I would not say I’m super confident,” he said.
“I think externally people have us as favourites because it’s a more advanced league than the NEAFL.
But with the NT Team and the Queensland teams and the ability to use AFL rookies I think looking at the sides, it’s pretty evenly matched.”
The South Australians have had their share of injuries too, with last year’s state key forward, Ruory Kirkby, out with a knee injury.
With the rare opportunity to play on such a big stage, Geddon said he expected his side to lift on Saturday.
“We have selected a few guys who don’t’ play a lot of finals so for them it’s a huge game of which we won’t really know how they’ll react.
“Then there are some other guys who have that finals experience and in terms of the tempo, there’ll be no change.
“They’re playing with the best 22, their peers in the competition, and I have no doubt they’ll lift.”
While Godden hasn’t seen a lot of the NEAFL talent, he said this weekend would be more about his team than their opponents.
“These state games are not too much about the opposition,” he said.
“We’ve picked our best 22 and we’ve got to play a brand of footy we believe in and trust that it’s good enough.”
Former Southport and SUNS player, Joel Tippett, will line up on the backline for the SANFL while former Brisbane Lions, Chris Schmidt and Leigh Rsywsyk will be running through the midfield.
The NEAFL Northern vs. SANFL match kicks off at 2:40pm Queensland time, and will be broadcast at 2:30pm on ABC1.
NEAFL Northern Conference
F: Dunne, White, Hall
HF: Clarke, Baxter, Dzufer
C: Faure, Ilett, Walton
HB: Boston, Michael, Stiller
B: Davey, Mills, Geary
R: Reid, Burge, Kiel
INT: Shelton, Merrett, Vassal, Hayes
(two emergencies to be named)
Central District – Paul Thomas, James Boyd, Brayden O’Hara
North Adelaide – Matt Campbell, Leigh Ryswyk, George Thring
Norwood – Mat Suckling, Alex Georgiou
Port Adelaide – James Meiklejohn, Sam Gray, Kory Beard
South Adelaide – Michael Wundke, Nick Liddle, Joel Cross
Sturt – Michael Coad
West Adelaide – Chris Schmidt, Jon Beech, Ryan Ferguson, Daniel Caire, Joel Tippett
Woodville-West Torrens – Andrew Ainger, Matthew Goldsworthy, Luke Jarrad, Craig Parry