AUSSIE RULES: Gunnedah and District AFC Bulldogs Junior Pups kicked off their gala day season with multiple junior age groups descending onto Tamworth’s Riverside precinct last Sunday.

Boys and girls from ages eight to 12 took part in a round robin, gender-mixed format that saw the up-and-coming future crop of Gunnedah Bulldogs boys and Poochettes girls take part in conjunction with and against teams from Inverell, Armidale and Tamworth.

There was also an Auskick session held on the day for kids five to seven years of age, coinciding with a jam packed schedule of non-competitive matches formed in ages under 8, 10 and 12.

In the under 10s, the Pups impressively were undefeated in their three matches, while the Gunnedah participants in age groups under 8s and under 12s spread their talents among other clubs by filling the requirement of players to garner match experience.

In an initiative introduced by the AFL North West senior competition management, for the first time all junior participants under the age of 14 now have the opportunity of experiencing the tackle and thrust of competitive AFL football.

NSW North West Junior AFL co-ordinator Khobi Devine has promoted the sport through schools and said the initiative is for children who are not necessarily affiliated to a club.

“Anyone between ages of five and 12 who wants to try AFL is more than welcome to come to any of the days,” Devine said.

“Hopefully from there the taste they get of competitive footy, makes them want to keep coming back.

“It’s a great initiative from the AFL North West.”

Kids will play fortnightly in each sector of the AFL North West region, following the senior club representation of Tamworth, Gunnedah, Inverell and Armidale.

The newly introduced gala day concept is viewed as a stepping stone to providing opportunity for junior talent between the Auskick program and under 14 junior football, aiming for continual participation from the juniors to flow into the senior ranks in the future.

Gunnedah AFL junior parent and mentor Mark Barrow said the initiative was well received, as represented by the excitement of the youngsters who participated.

“The kids had a ball, couldn’t wipe the smile off their faces all day,” Barrow said.

Particularly impressive is the involvement of kids through numbers, which started at next to none and has grown exponentially through his efforts along with fellow Gunnedah co-ordinators Belinda Barrow and

Rebecca Tunbridge along with the efforts of development officer Devine.

“The girls have been amazing growing the numbers, we started with a few and now we have more than 35 juniors,” Barrow said. 

“It’s getting bigger and it’s exciting for the future.”

The next gala day for the junior Pups will be held in Armidale on May 21.

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