THE NEW England Nomads will take to the field against the Inverell Saints to mark 50 years of Australian Football in New England tomorrow at Bellevue Oval.
The Nomads are currently sitting in second place behind the Saints on the ladder and Nomads coach Tom Granleese said his side is ready to give them a run for their money.
“Tomorrow we have a full strength side taking to the field and after a long string of matches away from Armidale the entire team is fired up to have a great game at home,” he said.
The top two teams have clashed twice this season with the Nomads claiming a four-point victory over the Inverell side earlier this season in Armidale.
The last time the two sides met five weeks ago, the Saints delivered Armidale what Granleese describes as a thrashing.
“We were in Inverell, we didn’t have a full side on the paddock and we suffered,” he said.
“They were able to capitalise on this and delivered us a thrashing.”
Leading the charge for what is set to be a grand final preview is Nomads captain Clint Ballard and vice captain Jonathon Frost.
“Both Ballard and Frost are always there to penetrate play in attack,” Granleese said.
“As a side, we play our best footy when we are able to dominate this.”
The Nomads are looking to secure a victory over the Saints this week as they look towards the finals and secure a semi final home game.
Tomorrow’s match will also see former players, officials and coaches of New England AFL attend the match to celebrate 50 years of AFL in New England.
The first team in Armidale took to Consett Davis oval at The University of New England in 1962 as the UNE AFL Club.
The team initially entered into an inter-college competition which saw teams from Robb and Wright Colleges, shortly followed by St Alberts, Earle Page and United (Austin and Drummond) Colleges take to the field.
The growth of AFL in the New England was marked by the inclusion of a Tamworth team in 1975 which then saw teams from Gunnedah, Uralla, Coonabarabran, Moree, Coffs Harbur and Port Macquarie also compete.
The New England Nomads were formed in 1999 and joined the Tamworth AFL side in the growing competition and the Armidale-based side had immediate success, winning premierships in 2000, 2001 and 2004.
Old boys chairman Rod Gillett said that for the Nomads to continue their current run of success and win the premiership in the 50th year of the competition would be a great feat.
“The last time we had a reunion in 2004 the Nomads won the premiership, so to see the Nomads repeat the effort this year and in the 50th year of the competition would be a great thing for the club,” he said.
The New England Nomads will wear commemorative guernseys donated by the club’s old boys that honour the original UNE AFL club.
The old boys will present the jumper with the number they wore as a players to the current Nomads side.
The club’s celebrations will kick off at Bellevue Oval at 12pm with junior Auskick games, followed by the Nomads first grade side taking to the field at 2pm.
Following the day’s games the Nomads will hold their annual ball at the Wicklow Hotel, the club’s major sponsor