The last two women's TIO Central Australian Football League (CAFL) premiers are set to ring in the return of NT community football when Pioneer and Alkamilya meet in the first game of the 2020 season next Friday night.
Another highlight of the opening round will be the grand final rematch between the Senior Men's teams from South and Rovers when they play at 3pm on Saturday.
Similarly, the Community Competition will see 2019 grand finalists; Willowra and Mt Allan battle for the first four points in the senior men's division. If their one-point premiership decider is anything to go by, then it's sure to be an exciting game.
As has become the norm with the premier footy competition in Central Australia, the TIO CAFL Senior Women's games will take place each week on a Friday night before the remaining town competitions play on a Saturday and the community fixtures on Sunday.
Due to COVID-19, clubs have been working proactively with AFLNT to find ways to reduce cost while still catering for the needs and passion of their players.
As such, the town competition's Under 15 and Under 18 Boys divisions have become an Under 17s Junior Men's division which will cater for young men who are 14, 15, 16 and 17 during the season. Players who are 13 and under will be able to join an expanded Thunder Juniors program, and those who are 18 are eligible for selection in the senior men's teams (reserves included).
The Community Competition will also see all 12 remote teams come together in one contest, whereas previously they'd been split into Community Cup and Country League divisions. With most teams travelling anywhere between 180 to 800 kilometres each weekend, there's plenty of pride on the line.
As was communicated yesterday, all CAFL clubs have now been sent the Return to Play Protocols document required to make sure they are prepared for a safe, healthy and hygienic start to the 2020 TIO CAFL season. AFLNT is also visiting all of the remote teams as part of a #remotefootyCA tour to brief them on COVID-19 restrictions.
In other changes for the season, AFLNT welcomes back Simon Hargrave to the position of Community Football Manager for Central Australia. Hargrave helped oversee the competition for three seasons between 2016 and 2018 before moving to Darwin with AFLNT.
In 2019 Alice Springs welcomed Darryl Griffiths as the manager of community football for the region, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 and the AFL's response in adjusting its staff resources and placing a significant portion of its workforce on stand down, he has since chosen to depart the organisation. AFLNT would like to thank Griffiths for more than seven years of dedicated service across Darwin and Alice Springs and thank him for his tireless contribution to Territory football.
Hargrave said he was looking forward to getting his hands dirty and leading the way for the return of community football across the nation.
"I am thrilled to be heading back to Alice Springs and overseeing the 2020 TIO CAFL; which is already proving to be a season like no other.
"Substantial effort and preparation are going into making this year's competition enjoyable and successful, as well as safe. Today we are releasing the fixtures which we can do thanks to the strong foundations Darryl laid, so I am truly appreciative of his contribution.
"I also thank the clubs, umpires, our valued sponsors and the broader community for their willingness to support one another and also us as we work together to ensure that Central Australians can get back on the field and playing the game they love.
"I look forward to seeing everyone at some stage throughout the season and remind them to please follow the health, safety and hygiene protocols so that once we get started, we can keep footy up and running," he said.
The 2020 TIO CAFL fixtures (as detailed in the above PDFs) will be uploaded to the SportsTG and AFLNT websites in the coming days.