Saints readying for big 2017
SOUTH Burnett Saints are readying for a big 2017, after going above and beyond expectations this season.
The fledgling club only formed in 2013, and was thrown into the deep end of the Darling Downs A-grade competition in its inaugural season.
The following year, the competition split into two divisions with the Saints dropping into the second-tier competition after only a handful of wins.
An undefeated 2014 season meant the Saints entered the grand final against University as heavy favourites, where they were ultimately beaten by a more committed side.
"We just didn't really show up that day, we had a really good season but were beaten in the most important game,” vice-president Daniel Clacy said.
"But we needed it, we went in undefeated and maybe a bit too cocky.”
The loss proved a blessing in disguise for the South Burnett side, who returned to claim the premiership in 2015.
This season marked a return to the top tier of Darling Downs AFL, where the Saints proved doubters wrong to make a strong run to the finals.
"We made it through to the second round of finals and got beaten by Coolaroo on their home ground. It was a tough day but fun, we never set out this year thinking we'd make the finals,” Clacy said.
With on-field performances steadily improving, Clacy hopes it will bring more players to the club.
Last month AFL Queensland revealed a 6% growth in participation across the state for 2016, with nearly 230,000 men, women and children pulling on a guernsey.
Female participation has seen the largest increase, and comes as no surprise with the inaugural national women's competition beginning next year.
"It's inspirational to watch them play, they could be losing but never give up. It's fantastic to watch,” Clacy said.
"Unfortunately if there's kids involved it defaults to mum looking after the kids while dad goes to play sport.
" We lost a few ladies to that sort of thing, so it would be great to get more involved next season.
"I looked up to the Brisbane Lions players and now the ladies can have the same thing.
"Young ladies wanting to play football now know they can, it's not just a man's sport any more.”
Clacy is also hoping to begin a junior program at the club for next season, because he understands without juniors the club could fold just as quickly as it began.
"Our focus this coming season will be on juniors - old people get old, we need juniors to replace them,” he said.
"We've been talking to AFLQ and AFL Darling Downs to boost numbers throughout the district, so shout out to any junior players interested in joining.
"What brought me into AFL is the fitness, I really enjoy having an outlet that is good for you.”
Clacy played rugby league in his formative years but says he had never been involved in a club that was so wholly inclusive of its members.
"We have the best bunch of people, everyone looks out for each other.
"I always refer to them as the Saints family, and that's the biggest thing. Everyone has a common purpose, we all love football and everyone is there to help each other.
"I've played sports where there is separation, but it's not apparent at the Saints.”