Saturday, 21st April, 2018
By Tyler Hannigan
Broken Hill’s footballers will finally get to strap on the boots today as they enjoy their first competitive hit out for 2018 in the Lightning Cup.
It’s been 231 days since the 2017 AFL Broken Hill grand final as the players enjoyed a late start to the 2018 season due to a reduction in the number of rounds from 18 to 15. Clubs dealt with the delay in different ways; North and South started their preseasons later while West and Central kept with their usual routine.
They’ve played trial games - whether they be intra-club or against a team from another league - but now they have the chance to test out their preseason work against their rivals, even if in shortened games.
The day starts at 9am with North taking on South in the women’s before West play Central at 9.45am.
The two losers will then play off followed by the winners playing in the women’s grand final at 11.15am.
The men then get underway at 12.15pm with South against North and then Central versus West at 1.20pm. The third-place playoff is at 2:25pm while the grand final takes place at 3.30pm.
Women’s games are two 15-minute halves with no time on while the men’s games will be two 20-minute halves with no time on.
West and Central face a quick turnaround with them playing their first regular season match in just four days with an ANZAC Day clash and so how they treat today will be interesting.
Getting the balance right between having a decent run and not being worn out with round one very close will be very important especially with temperatures set to reach the low 30s today.
South and North have less to be worried about with their round one match up not taking place until next Saturday. They’ll just be content with a competitive hit out and getting some game time into their players.
South coach Craig Thomas said that while they’ve had plenty of success in the Lightning Cup in the past, they still view it as a warmup.
“Even though we’ve won the last eight in a row, we still use it as a conditioning game for round one and beyond,” Thomas said.
“This year has been a little bit different because of the shorter season and late start but we’ll be going in with a squad that’s competitive.
“I’m going to play all the senior players that are available, there’s a handful that are out due to work commitments, and there are juniors that are coming off their first real preseason and a few reserve boys that will get their chance too.”
New North senior coach Robert Hickey said that while getting game time into his players is a goal, so is performing well.
“Going into Saturday I’ve picked the best squad that I could. We’re going in to win,” Hickey said.
“We want to get a good hit into our senior players that are going to play round one. We’ve got about four players unavailable through work or being out of town so we’re going in pretty much at full-strength and with no excuses.”