Tigers prowling a chance to make finals history
"A chance to make history."
That's how Tweed Coast Tigers president Ben Kelly describes the AFL Northern Rivers semi-finals at Ballina today.
The Tigers have the chance to become the first club to have three teams through to grand finals with firsts and reserves up against Ballina and the women's team taking on Lismore.
"To have three teams in three grand finals would be a massive effort for our club," Kelly said.
"It is a chance to make some history but all three teams know they have plenty of hard work ahead of them."
The Tigers have a proud finals history but this year some first-time finalists are adding fresh enthusiasm. The 15-year-old Blaine Thomas and 16-year-old Conor McDowell are local juniors who've grabbed their opportunity in the top grade this year.
"I grew up driving past Potty Oval watching the Tigers play, so it's exciting to play seniors and have a chance at a grand final," McDowell said.
"Seniors has been a real step up, there are bigger bodies and it's faster and you have to be prepared to take the hits."
Providing pathways to senior footy is a big focus for the Tigers, especially having lost many talented young players in the past to clubs further up the coast.
"At the start of the year I thought there's no way in hell I'd be playing seniors," Thomas said.
"It is a privilege to get the opportunity, the footy is definitely harder and faster but there's a good culture at the club and you feel like the more experienced guys have your back out there."
"I want to play senior footy with this club for a long time so getting an early opportunity is a great start," McDowell said.
While the young Tigers are forging a senior career, a club veteran is about to notch a unique milestone. Three-time premiership player John Weston will be the first player at Tigerland to play 100 club games.
He could add to that tally if the Tigers can win through to the grand final.
Byron is already through to the decider in firsts and reserves while Ballina is through in the women's.
Today at Ballina: Reserves v Ballina 10.30am; Women v Lismore 12:15pm; Firsts v Ballina 2pm.