AFTER a long wait for both the Grafton Tigers and their home ground Ellem Oval, the AFL North Coast juniors made their return on Sunday.
COVID-19 and the resurfacing of the hallowed turf were the cause of the delays, but Tigers youth girls coach Chris Leslie said it was a welcome return.
“It’s great to have the girls back out there running around,” Leslie said.
Coming off the back off a dual premiership-winning campaign, the Tigers’ three sides had mixed results against fierce rivals Coffs Harbour Breakers.
Kicking off on a tough note, the under-13s fell to Coffs Harbour by 60 points before the youth girls fell to the same fate in a close encounter, going down 7.4 (46)-2.2 (14).
“It’s good to see games back out on Ellem Oval. It would have been better to christen it with a win but it was a pretty good effort from the girls,” Leslie said.
“We had a couple of players down and quite a few new players. The first timers did really well.”
Leslie’s side were triumphant in last year’s premiership against the Bellingen Bulldogs, but said it was good to get an early loss out of the way as they eye another title.
“Last year was pretty tight between Bellingen, Coffs and us. Bellingen just got through, beating Coffs to get into the grand final with us,” he said.
“It was a solid test to start. It’s good to have a loss early, we were a bit cocky from last year. They realise now what they’ve got to do.”
The under-15 boys showed signs of nerves early on, but a dominant closing quarter had them finish 37 point winners on Sunday afternoon as they begin a premiership defence of their own.
Grafton’s junior contingent will travel to Richardson Park to take on the Sawtell Toormina Saints for round 2 on Sunday while the triumphant senior squads will play their first home game of the season at Ellem Oval against the Northern Beaches Blues on Saturday.
AFL North Coast Junior Results
Bellingen Bulldogs 5.4-34 vs Sawtell Toormina Saints 5.8-38
Northern Beaches Blues 6.4-40 vs Coffs Harbour Breakers 11.8-74
Nambucca Valley Lions 6.2-38 vs Port Macquarie Flyers 8.4-52
Camden Haven Bombers 9.7-61 vs South West Rocks Dockers 0.1-1
Bellingen Bulldogs 3.7-25 vs Sawtell Toormina Saints 12.13-85
Nambucca Valley Lions 9.6-60 vs Port Macquarie Flyers 3.4-22
Grafton Tigers 0.0-0 vs Coffs Harbour Breakers 9.6-60
Port Macquarie Swoopers 12.20-92 vs South West Rocks Dockers 5.2-32
Bellingen Bulldogs 5.7-37 vs Sawtell Toormina Saints 5.9-39
Grafton Tigers 2.2-14 vs Coffs Harbour Breakers 7.4-46
Nambucca Valley Lions 4.1-25 vs Port Macquarie Magpies 11.9-75
Bellingen Bulldogs 14.9-93 vs Sawtell Toormina Saints 5.4-34
Grafton Tigers 14.15-99 vs Coffs Harbour Breakers 10.2-62