Grafton Tiger named captain of Team of the Decade
AUSSIE RULES: In a star-studded team full of the best talent produced by the AFL North Coast competition over the past decade, Grafton Tigers stalwart Luke Stanford earned the ultimate honour when he was appointed captain of the second ever AFL North Coast Team of the Decade.
Stanford was joined by dual premiership heroes in Will Darby, Dan Zacek, Evan Duryea, and Lee Anderson to round out the contingent of Grafton Tigers players named in the squad, covering the years 2010 to 2019.
Speaking after the ceremony, Stanford said his appointment as captain was an honour.
"There are lots of players with a good footy resume in the room and who have played at good clubs, won a lot of medals and won a lot of premierships," he said.
"To be named as leader of that team is a heck of an honour.
"It was a surprise, absolutely, and I think it's nice to be acknowledged and make the team but to be captain is that next little acknowledgment, but it certainly was a surprise."
With many players reuniting from across the competition, Stanford said it was nice to see some familiar faces again.
"It was good to share a few stories, a few yarns got spun around," he said.
"It's always nice to see those guys you used to play footy against."
The AFL North Coast Team of the Decade comprises players from Port Macquarie Magpies, Nambucca Valley Lions, Coffs Harbour Swans, Coffs Harbour Breakers, Sawtell Toormina Saints, and the Grafton Tigers.
The key criteria to be eligible for selection was that the player must have played a minimum of three seasons in the AFL North Coast senior grade.
Collectively the selected players have won 48 AFL North Coast senior premierships, nine League Best and Fairest medals, and six Woodlock Medal for best on ground in the grand final in the past decade alone.
The Pioneers of Women's AFL on the North Coast were also recognised for the key role they played in establishing the thriving local competition that goes from strength to strength.
It is widely acknowledged throughout all levels of AFL North Coast that the introduction of Women's footy has been an absolute bonus for the code, clubs, and community alike. With the competition only two years' old it was not yet time to announce a Women's Team of the Decade, but it was absolutely appropriate to recognise those who were there from the outset and quickly became role models for their peers.
The Female Pioneers are those players that were involved in the demonstration matches in 2017 before the competition was born, who then went on to play club footy in 2018 and/or 2019. Only a handful of these players had played competitive AFL prior to taking part in demonstration matches, with many making the transition from other sports.
Speaking on behalf of the Female Pioneers, Alana Hanson said they've seen exponential growth in women's footy.
"More and more players are coming across and it's something that I never really thought could get this big," she said.
"It's grown so much over a short space of time that we're trying to keep up but it's absolutely amazing to see."