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Country week: Great Northern begins quest to return to the top as country championships get under way

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
The 2023 GNFL Country Week men's squad
Camera IconThe 2023 GNFL Country Week men's squad Credit: Jake Santa Maria

After a three-year wait, the Great Northern Football League will return to country week competition, with sights firmly set on breaking their title drought.

For the first time since 2019, the GNFL will be represented at the Nutrien Ag Solutions Country Football Championships when their campaign begins on Friday against fellow Mid West league Central Midlands Coastal at Lane Group Stadium in Mandurah.

Coach Leith Teakle unveiled the squad on Monday night with the help of some ex-GNFL stars and is pleased to have the GNFL back in the competition.

“I’m very excited, I was on board last year when we decided not to send a team down and it ripped my heart out, it really did,” he said.

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“But I think the silver lining of that is it kicked the GNFL into gear and really challenged the GNFL and community to get behind a country week and they’ve done that and now we’re really looking forward to getting down there to represent the GNFL.”

Along with Central Coastal Midlands, the GNFL will be against the strong bodies from the Wheatbelt, with Eastern Districts, Mortlock, Goldfields and Central Wheatbelt completing the make up of division two.

But even with a couple names missing, the GNFL has some big stars including Geelong great Harry Taylor and Teakle was bullish over his side’s chances.

“We’ll take them head-on with the contested ball and then we’ll get them on the outside and do them there as well,” he said.

“I’ve been down to a few country weeks and we’re generally a shorter, quicker team, but we’ve got a couple of big boys this year and we’ve definitely got the talent to go well.”

Brigades captain Kim Schofield was chosen to lead the squad on the field and said he was honoured to be given the captaincy.

“It’s a great privilege, it looks like we’ve got a really good bunch of lads this year so I’m really excited to get back down there and hopefully, get Geraldton back to the A-grade where we belong,” he said.

“I’ve learnt a lot ... to be a leader this year captaining Brigades, I think I’m just going to take in the same things like I do each week, I tell our boys that we’ve just got to get one per cent better every week.

“I’m sure over the next four games, just get one per cent better, and I’m sure we’ll take it up to any team.

“It looks like we’ve got a lot of pace and flair and we’ve also got a lot of talls now, so I think we’re well balanced and I think we’re gonna scare a few sides that’s for sure.”

Schofield said having the likes of Taylor, who will be playing his first senior country week, was also a big boon for the squad.

“It’s a huge thing I think for especially the younger boys as well, I look at Harry and pinch myself, sometimes that I get to play next to him and I’m sure he will teach me a few things and I’m definitely asking for a few secrets that’s for sure,” he said.

As always country week will play shortened 20-minute halves, which Schofield said should be a benefit to the side.

“I think it will probably suit us more if we get our quick ball movement going and get on the outside there’s not many teams that will stop us because we’re pretty well a powerhouse when it comes to that kind of stuff,” he said.

Great Northern will need to finish in the top two to qualify for the championship final on Sunday.

GNFL Country Week Fixtures:

Friday, July 7

Great Northern v Central Coastal Midlands 11am

Great Northern v Central Wheatbelt 3pm

Saturday, July 8

Great Northern v Goldfields 10.30am

Great Northern v Mortlock 2.30pm

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