To say David Flynn is looking forward to the 2021 AFL Hunter Central Coast season after what transpired in 2020 would be an understatement.
The chairman, and his fellow committee members, had to navigate through a global pandemic, adhere to NSW Health restrictions and still plan a competition viable for everyone in a short space of time.
Luckily, in the end, everything fell into place, with the Terrigal Avoca Panthers claiming the Black Diamond Cup and Black Diamond Plate double from the Newcastle City Blues, while the Cardiff Hawks accounted for Killarney Vale Bombers in the Black Diamond Shield.
In the women’s format, the Blues defended their crown from the Bombers in the Black Diamond Cup and the Singleton Roosters secured a maiden Black Diamond Plate at the expense of the Lake Macquarie Dockers.
“The collegial approach from all the clubs made the difference between how the comp could, potentially, have been postponed or cancelled versus going ahead,” Flynn said.
“So, it was ‘we’re more than the sum of our parts’.
“Also, we felt obliged to run a competition [if we could] because it’s a community sport – and contributing back to communities when they needed it in testing times was a drive.
“Thankfully, everyone was supportive and worked together to get it underway.”
But, Flynn admitted it was “challenging”.
“I think having that pressure certainly made us work hard to be able to achieve what we did,” he said.
“There were a lot of learnings that came out of 2020 that we can apply to 2021.
“Dealing with something (like COVID-19) makes you assess the things that are great in your game and also assess the things you can improve on.
“Then you’ll be able to prioritise what’s there to work on.
“We’ll take that thinking with us into 2021.”
Representatives from AFL Hunter Central Coast, AFL NSW/ACT and the rival organisations – the Cardiff Hawks, Gosford Tigers, Killarney Vale Bombers, Lake Macquarie Dockers, Maitland Saints, Muswellbrook Cats, Nelson Bay Marlins, Newcastle City Blues, Port Stephens Power, Singleton Roosters, Terrigal Avoca Panthers, The Entrance Bateau Bay, Wallsend West-Newcastle Swans, Warners Bay Bulldogs and Wyong Lakes Magpies – gathered at the Belmont 16s on Sunday to launch the season, which kicks off on Saturday 10 April.
“Hopefully, we’ll enjoy some normality, whatever that is in 2021,” Flynn said.
“I think you’ll see the new-found collegial approach from all clubs will now drive the standards higher.
“So, I believe the quality of football will be up this year, along with the infusion of our growth rate across the juniors through to the seniors.
“There’s a transferring of players from the boys and girls’ side of the code into the next level.
“It’s sensational to see that there’s a lifelong game now being played by kids from Auskick all the way through to seniors.
“Plus, some of the changes we made last season will still be around this year because they worked.
“But, in terms of structures, we’re filling them with additional teams with growth.
“I’m keen to witness a positive 2021.
“You can see, and feel, from the numbers here [today] the enthusiasm in the room that it’s exciting for everyone across the board.”
Another encouraging sign for AFL Hunter Central Coast is the appointment of Matt Harris as its community football and competition manager.
He recently served almost a decade as CEO of Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL).
“Matt boasts extensive experience in sports administration,” Flynn told the Newcastle Weekly.
“He’s also of good character, so I think he’ll fit right into the mould here at AFL Hunter Central Coast.”