Northern NSW Schools Making Their Mark in AFL at a State Level
Northern NSW schools have asserted their position among the best in the state after outstanding performances in both the Paul Kelly Cup and the State Cup Finals played this week in Blacktown, while Sawtell Public School claimed top honours in the NSWPSSA Tony Lockett Shield.
Sawtell Public School upset two-time champions Finley with a 21 point semi-final victory, and then held off a resurgent Terrigal Public School in the final to secure the victory 43-29 at Bruce Purser Oval on Wednesday.
Sawtell's championship is just the second time in the 30 year history of the competition that a non-Riverina based school has won the competition, and the first time since Berkeley Vale PS in 1999.
The annual Paul Kelly Cup Final held at Blacktown International Sportspark marked the culmination of competition across the state among primary school aged (years 5 and 6) boys and girls. For the first time in the competition’s history a school from the Northern NSW reached the Boys Paul Kelly Cup Grand Final when West Kempsey Public School took on reigning champions St Patrick’s School Albury.
Though falling to a strong side from the dominant Southern NSW Region 45-14, West Kempsey’s success denotes a continuing improvement in growth and participation in junior football in the north of the state.
Earlier in the week, St Paul’s High School Port Macquarie made a valiant appearance in the Grand Final of the Under-16 Boys State Cup, where they took on another Southern NSW side in Mater Dei Wagga Wagga. St Paul’s lost the match 105-18 but their efforts to reach the final again highlight the significant improvements in the quality of football across the Northern NSW Region.
Northern NSW Regional Manager Mark Heaney says the results are indicative of the growth in popularity of the game in the area.
"It’s fantastic to see so many kids trying Australian football through school and community programs," he said.
"We work extensively with schools across the region to introduce kids to our great sport, so it’s wonderful to see these schools achieving such great success."
In the Northern NSW Region there were 3,861 AFL participants in 2011, with more than 41% of these players involved in the club system. AFL NSW/ACT has a base in Northern NSW and is aiming to have over 6,500 participants by 2016.