By Danny McCarthy
The wait will soon be over for footy fans with the 2015 NAB Challenge to kick off between Hawthorn and Collingwood on Thursday February 26.
Queensland will host three games; with regional Queensland benefiting most, as the AFL continues its push to bring the game to all parts of Australia.
The Brisbane Lions will host Saint Kilda at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex in Burpengary on Saturday February 28.
Star recruit Dayne Beams will make his much-anticipated debut for the Lions this season, as the team looks to build on a disappointing 2014 campaign.
Beams, a Southport local, was a genuine rock star for the Pies and his premiership winning experience can only help the young Lions.
Allen Christensen; traded from Geelong, as well as former Carlton bad boy Mitch Robinson will also boost the inexperienced Lions.
Joining the recruits are some of the Lions’ finest players including 2014 NAB Rising Star Lewis Taylor and Best and Fairest winner Tom Rockliff.
The second game will pit two legitimate premiership contenders in the Gold Coast SUNS and Geelong Cats at Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville on Sunday March 1.
Expectations could not be higher for the Suns; after narrowly missing the finals last year, new coach Rodney Eade will hopefully be the final piece of the puzzle to push the Suns into the finals.
Returning for Geelong are some of the AFL’s biggest names including Joel Selwood, Stevie Johnson, Tom Hawkins and Jimmy Bartel.
The perennial title contenders will face a SUNS team loaded with talent; a potential line-up could include two-time Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett and young up-and-comers David Swallow, Tom Lynch and Jaeger O’Meara.
The last time they met, the young SUNS dismantled the Cats and they will hope to continue that form and start the season on the right note.
Ablett told The Geelong Advertiser he was positive about the state of the team.
“We have got the core of our group coming into their fourth/fifth season now and you know, they are starting to understand what it’s about,” he said.
“We are starting to understand what its about as a group — how professional you need to be and what it takes to be a good side at AFL level.”
The final game will help stoke the flames a fierce rivalry as the SUNS host the Lions at Metricon Stadium on Friday March 20.
The preseason clash will set the tone for the 2015 season as the two teams battle for supremacy of the Queensland public.
Brisbane has dominated the rivalry so far but the young upstart SUNS, with the return of injured skipper Gary Ablett, will hope to reverse that trend.
Please see www.afl.com.au for further venue and ticketing information.