Season 2024 of North West AFL kicks off this Saturday, with the senior men and women’s competitions commencing in Tamworth and Inverell.

Unfortunately, the New England Nomads (Armidale) are in recess for season 2024, citing a lack of numbers for both their men and women’s sides meaning the 2024 North West AFL senior competition will consist of four teams.

On the back of the Nomads recession, the regular round bye for the competition is scrapped, as each side will play each other four times throughout the season, twice at home and twice away against each opponent.

Following the end of the regular season, the minor premiers of both the men’s and women’s competitions will progress directly into the grand final, whilst second and third places will play off in a preliminary final and the winner of that are to face the minor premiers in the grand final.

Local side the Gunnedah Bulldogs Australian Football Club (AFC) will field men’s and women’s sides for season 2024 and their round one fixture is an away match against the Tamworth Swans in Tamworth, while The Tamworth Kangaroos will play the Inverell Saints in Inverell.

With a shortened season, each match has a heightened importance in regards to banking early wins in the season towards ensuring a passage towards finals action.

Following their premiership triumph of 2023, the women’s Poochettes side will be led in the coaching department by Gunnedah Bulldogs AFC life members and club stalwarts John Woolaston, who is taking on the head coaching role, while Mark Ewington will be his assistant.

Although there has been high player movement for the Poochettes, with several players from last season unavailable for various reasons, crucially they still have the core of their premiership side from last season.

Katrina Rekunow will captain the side and in combination with the Ewington sisters Laura and Kelly, as well as Abbey Ruttley, Alexa Walker and Zoe Palmer and the return of Casey O’Connell will form the backbone of the Poochettes premiership defence in 2024.

On the men’s front, 2023 Poochettes premiership coach Jakob Vearing has taken the reins of the Bulldogs men’s side.

The Bulldogs are likely to retain the majority of the players from last season, but in a crucial loss they will be without 2023 best and fairest runner up and midfielder Ryan Smith.

However, the Bulldogs have recruited well through youth and experience in the off season, with former under 14s representatives Mason Louis, Liam Naismith and Callan Gibson to join former teammate and 2023 rising star Tom Carlyon in the Bulldogs ranks.

On the experienced side, Hayden Edwards and Max Reis join the club, with centreman and ruck rover Edwards recently spending two season in the Northern Territory Football League as well as numerous clubs in Victoria.

Reis has made his way into the Bulldogs from Sydney where he represented the University of New South Wales in the Sydney premier one division.

Both players shape as central cogs in the Bulldogs’ line up and in combination with returning and senior players such as captain and 2023 best and fairest Adam Curgenven, James Mack, Darcy Hill and Vearing himself in a player-coach role, could see the Bulldogs break into the finals for the first time since their last premiership in 2020.

Meanwhile, junior AFL action also kicks off this weekend, with junior gala days consisting of age groups from Auskick (ages 6 and under), under 8s, 10s, 12s and 14s all playing fortnightly on Sundays across the AFL North West region.

With the success of last season’s inaugural gala day concept, numbers have flowed into the higher age groups of under 12s and 14s that have enabled competitive competition that mirrors the rules of senior fixtures.

Gunnedah Junior Pups will feature in the under 12s age group and under 14s, joining forces with the Tamworth Roosters in a combined side.

In under 12 competition, the junior Gunnedah Pups will face the New England Nomads and Glen Innes Celts, while the under 14s competition will see the Pups tackle the Inverell Saints and New England Nomads in a round robin format.

Matches in the under 12s and 14s will be played fortnightly, with some of these fixtures coinciding with junior gala days in a boost to promote junior footy for a flow-on effect into the senior ranks for the future.

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