Swans coming to Coffs in ‘exciting’ expansion plans
THE rapid expansion of the AFL North Coast competition continues with the addition of two new teams in 2021.
Lismore Swans and Casino Lions will join the competition next year, the third and fourth sides to join the booming league in three years, and bringing the total number of clubs to eight.
The addition of the two clubs comes hot on the heels of the Northern Beaches Blues returning to the fold two seasons ago, and Nambucca Valley Lions rejoining this season gone.
Lismore will field three teams, a men's first-grade and reserve-grade and a women's side. Casino will field a men's first grade side.
The Lismore Swans formed in 2001 from a merger of the Goonellabah Swans and Lismore Kangaroos, with both of these clubs being founding members of the Summerland League back in 1984.
The Swans have competed in their various guises in the Summerland/Northern Rivers competition every year since 1984 but club president Laura Cahill says the time is right to make the move south.
"The movement to a NSW based league will give us the scope to engage with players in our broader regional area, and allow us to participate in a competition that's better suited to our vision and values at this point in time," she said.
The Lismore Swans are looking forward to the opportunity to participate in the AFL North Coast competition. We are really excited about developing some new healthy rivalries with the existing North Coast teams."
The Casino Lions are re-forming for the 2021 season, having last taken to the park in 2017.
Casino president Ben Hunt said there was a lot of excitement around the town about the club's return.
"We've decided to return to the competition after a long time away based on a groundswell of support from local players and businesses," he said.
"We're looking to rebuild a club with a very prestigious history and return to AFL glory in the coming years.
"The vibe around the club and the players is exciting, being able to compete again after such a long time away from the competition. It's great being part of a very diverse competition and growing AFL in the area."
Paul Taylor, community football manager for AFL North Coast, welcomed the new clubs and said the local competition is in an extremely positive growth phase.
"It's incredibly exciting to have two new clubs joining the competition in 2021 and we can't wait to see them in action," he said.
"This will mean that our senior competition has doubled in size in just three years, which is a fantastic reflection of the hard work of all involved in the competition and comes off the back of five years of growth in Junior footy.
"The collaborative approach adopted by our clubs during this time has been a key factor in the growth as it's encouraged others to take the punt.
"The inclusion of Lismore and Casino extends what was already a big region and creates additional challenges, but the existing clubs were keen to see them join and have indicated that they'll look at innovative solutions to overcome the challenge of travel.
"With the way that clubs have worked together in recent times I have no doubt they'll pass the challenge with flying colours."
In addition to the new clubs joining the fold in 2021 the signs are already positive for growth in team numbers in all grades of the senior competition based on the interest being fielded by all clubs.
The AFL North Coast 2021 season gets underway in April.