Far from the AFL’s heartland, the Cairns-based Cape York Eagles may be the best under-age football team in Australia.
The Eagles fledgling under-17.5 team dominated the AFL Cairns competition in 2016, finishing the season undefeated and rarely troubled by the league’s opposition.
So successful were the Eagles three of their players represented Queensland this year – Fitzroy Greenwool, Timakoi Bowie and Damien Burke – with several others in contention.
Coach Rick Hanlon (pictured), a member of the Tasmanian AFL Hall of Fame, says the mighty Eagles possess rare ability.
“I can honestly say that I’ve been coaching different age groups for almost 30 years and I’ve never come across a better group at this age level,” Hanlon says.
“I’ve coached state sides, I’ve coached pretty high level representative teams but none as a good as this.
“They would beat any side that I’ve ever coached.
“When I first came here South Cairns had a junior team with eight or nine boys in line for state selection but this group is the best in terms of talent.”
Fittingly, the Eagles will take on South Cairns Cutters this Sunday at Cazalys Stadium.
AFL Cairns juniors coordinator Tim Mackrill says the Cutters are capable of an upset but will need to play their best.
“We have had some sides go through that have been very good but at that age group there probably hasn’t been a better team than Eagles,” he says.
“Their season has been really impressive. They’ve been challenged at times and South Cairns have had a good crack at them before.
“They’re [Cutters] the underdogs but I think they’ll definitely take it to them.”
It is the third consecutive grand final the Eagles have played in, having defeated Pyramid Power in 2015.
“The boys have worked hard,” Hanlon says. “We train pretty hard and [our success] reflects the work they’ve put in.”
The majority of the Eagles’ players come from Cape York, the Torres Strait and Gulf of Carpentaria with several residing at the Bungalow-based boarding facility AFL Cape York House.
Article Courtesy of Sam Davis Northern Beaches News https://northernbeachesnews.net/2016/08/24/elusive-eagles-chase-history/