Premiers get off to flying start against Eagles

REIGNING premiers New England Nomads, Inverell Saints and Tamworth Kangaroos all swept to opening-day Tamworth AFL victories in Narrabri and Tamworth on Saturday.

The Nomads, under new captain-coach Zac Economou, travelled to Narrabri to tackle the returning Eagles and swoop for an 87-point win.

Weston Whitby kicked five goals for the Nomads in their 19.18 132 to 6.9 45 win and was one of his side’s best along with Economou, Venkasa Chakalisa, Jonathon Frost and Dave Richards.

The Eagles, who had sat out the previous two seasons, had six goalkickers, with Mark Barrow one of those and one of their hardest workers.

In Tamworth, a double header was played at No 1 Oval where Inverell Saints had to work hard to beat a rejuvenated Tamworth Swans 11.16 82 to 5.10 40.

Chris Whitton and Michael Gould both kicked three goals apiece for the Nick Baird-coached side.

 Baird, returning as coach after a two-year stint in 2010 and 2011, was delighted with the victory in difficult cold and wet conditions.

“It was a good start to the season for us in pretty difficult conditions,”  Baird said.

“It was tough playing middle of winter at the start of May. The boys put their heads in over the footy and tried hard.”

He thought Gould had another outstanding game and was a target for the Saints all day.

“Tom Williams was outstanding too on the wing.”

Swans coach Andrew Donohue was far from disappointed with the 42-point loss.

“It was a very tough day, not what we expected,” Donohue said.

“We’d trained all pre-season without touching a wet ball. Normally we get sunburnt in the first game but this time we got frostbite.

“But I was very happy with the boys. We’ve had great numbers all year and picked up some good young players out of the blue.”

One of those “pickups” is 16-year-old Thomas Byrnes.

He booted two goals for the Swans and was one of their best with Josh McKenzie, Janson Doughty and Steve Fairless.

Tamworth Kangaroos won the second game in the double header  against Gunnedah Bulldogs 16.15 111 to 6.8 44.

Gunnedah coach John Woolaston described it as a “thrashing”.

Roos star Matthew Hodge kicked nine goals to start his season in brilliant fashion.

Andrew George booted two for the Bulldogs.

Woolaston said the Bulldogs were under pressure early, with injuries disrupting the first game.

Losing Andrew Pratt to a hamstring injury didn’t help.

“We had a few new players who hadn’t played before,”  Woolaston said.

“It was a big learning curve for them.

“We’ve struggled for numbers for a number of years.”

They had struggled for numbers until about three weeks ago when numbers improved and enabling Woolaston to have three good weeks of 

training.

He thought Jake Vigor played strongly as did Al Hillard and the Macks, James and Andy.

TAFL TABLE: New England Nomads 4 (293.33%), Tamworth Kangaroos 4 (254.27%), Inverell Saints 4 (205%), Tamworth Swans 0 (48.78%), Gunnedah Bulldogs 0 (39.44%), Narrabri Eagles 0 (34.09%).

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