By Joel Preston
The countdown is on to the start of the Townsville AFL season which gets underway when the City Lions kick off against the Curra Swans on Saturday.
Last year’s premiership winners the Hermit Park Tigers will face off against runners-up the Thuringowa Bulldogs in a grand final rematch at 2.30pm at Neil French Oval.
The Tiger’s new coach Dean Anderson said his team was going to be a little bit different this season with some new styles of football being implemented and some new faces on the field.
“Having quite a few new players it’s probably going to take us a little bit to find our feet, but yeah we’re really hoping to be in the top two this season,” he said.
Mr Anderson said it wasn’t the Bulldogs he’d be keeping an eye on this season.
“I think the University (Hawks), I think they’re gonna be a very good side, they’ve recruited well,” he said.
The Bulldogs are strong contenders again for this year’s premiership after last year’s almost flawless season.
Last year’s grand final defeat has left Bulldog’s coach Paul Sanson looking for redemption.
Mr Sanson said, “We’re hoping to go one better than last year’s season, all good until that one last game so our focus will be on some sort of redemption you could say.”
“Can’t heal the scars but you can put a bandaid over them,” he said.
Mr Sanson said that the Bulldog’s would be “extremely competitive” this year and that the Tigers were still the team to watch.
“They’re last year’s premiers, at this stage of the season they are the best team,” he said.
The University Hawks are also formidable contenders for the top spot this season with rumours of strong recruitment during the off season.
Reserves grade coach Joel Muller said the Hawks had recruited well and were ready to face the other teams.
“We’ve got a few young uni players, army players and a couple of players that have come from other clubs as well,” he said.
Mr Muller said the Hawks new senior coach Dave Tullett was the most significant change for the team this season.
“He’s got a range of different experience with juniors and seniors,” he said.
Mr Muller was optimistic for the Hawks grand final chances in both grades.
“I think we can win both grand finals, I think Dave can get us there, it’s just how much we want to win it,” he said.
“He’ll get us to the game and as you know it’s always about that last game.”
Coach of the Curra Swans Adam McDonald said he thinks his side has picked up some true talent this season that can help to take his team to the finals.
“We have a player Sam Raumer, he had a really good pre-season Blitz, that’s where we first saw him,” he said.
“He was recommended to play for the Swans from his coach in Cairns, we have high hopes for him I’m pretty excited.
“Nathan Wescombe is returning to the Swans with a few accolades under his belt and we have poaches the Lion’s best and fairest last year Chris Heagney.”
Mr McDonald said he is focussing on club culture on and off the field to bring the Swans more wins this season.
“I think if everyone’s enjoying themselves and having fun you win football games, so that’s the only thing I’ve really concentrated on improving off the football field in the club culture,” he said.
After last year’s lacklustre season for the Townsville City Lions, coach Andy Pethybridge said the team was looking positive for the upcoming season.
“What we’ve done last year is set a very professional club base level and that has attracted quite a few people to the club,” he said.
“It is based around a solid football ethic and family atmosphere.
“We were trying to build that sort of professional club ethic and that seems to be attracting the right people.”
Mr Pethybridge said that after a good pre-season the Lions were going to treat every match as a blockbuster game.
“We’re just gonna take every week as it comes because we need to see what player list we have available and we’ll be taking that as we can,” he said.
“There’s a lot of people going into football and going out of football in all clubs so it’ll be interesting to see how the year progresses.”
The 2013 Townsville AFL season begins on April 6 and will conclude with round 20 on August 17.
The Preliminary finals will be held at Tony Ireland Stadium on August 31 with the Grand Final being played in early September.