CAIRNS and a combined Townsville-Mackay side are the exotic opponents to be faced by a team of Ballarat under-16.5 footballers mid-year.
The Ballarat Football League has announced a representative football tour of Far North Queensland, from June 29.
The combined BFL, Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League and Riddell District Football League team will first face AFL Cairns at Cazalys Stadium on June 30. After a recovery session and trip to Port Douglas the squad will travel to Townsville to play the Townsville-Mackay under-16.5 team on July 3.
BFL operations manager Aaron Nunn said the league had previously hosted an AFL Cairns junior squad and had wanted to arrange a return trip to provide a recipricol opportunity for players from the region.
“We’ve been floating it for a couple of years now,” he explained.
“Our relationship with AFL Cairns began in 2009 when they came down for a community camp, and they played a BFL side then. Victoria is the heartland of AFL so the AFL Cairns squad come down here to become involved with the footy environment.
“This is the first time we’ll be sending a side up there although, depending on its success, we hope it won’t be the last.”
The Red Onion BFL has invited each of its junior clubs to submit a maximum of three names to attend training sessions. Before the final squad is selected later in the year.
Players will be selected according to their past performance at club, junior or school football level, on their potential to perform well in the matches, their potential to play in the AFL, attendance at training sessions and several other criteria.
In return the players will have an experience that few young footballers have to play in a different environment,” Nunn says.
“It can only be a great experience for them,” he says.
“It isn’t just about playing up there. It’s also about education, diet, training and recovery. There will be a few AFL identities up there as well, perhaps a development officer from Gold Coast Suns. The Gold Coast Suns have academy up in Cairns.”
The squad will be made up of 12 players from the BFL, six from the RDFL and six from the MCDFL.
BFL director Jeff Whittaker will coach the team, with Greg Stewart as assistant coach.