COUNTDOWN: There's an "air of excitement" ahead of the new AFL Hunter Central Coast competition, a representative from the governing body has said ahead of the annual gala day. Image via Cardiff Hawks.

With less than two weeks until the first ball of the AFL Hunter Central Coast Womens season is kicked at the Central Coast Regional Sporting and Recreation Complex on March 30, there’s a buzz of excitement in the air for the new league administrators.

Fifteen womens teams are set to contest the region’s top level league in 2019, with Newcastle City’s sister-team format chopped down to a single squad, and now the focus turns to the promotion of junior talent into the premier competition.

It’s the key focus of AFL Hunter Central Coast as the administrative body continues to shape the regional league into 2019 and beyond, but once the first ball is bounced between Gosford and The Entrance Bateau Bay there’ll just be “great footy”.

“We’re really excited for everything to kick off this year, there’s been so much transition over the past few months from the previous administration to the new one,” AFL community manager Sam Zikman said.

“There’s been so much foundation work to get the season up and running, and now we’re just two weeks out I think an air of excitement has taken hold. We’re excited, and we’re looking forward to just getting footy underway.”

Warners Bay celebrate a massive victory over Newcastle City in 2018’s competition. Image via Isaac McIntyre.

As reported by the Hunter Women’s Chronicle earlier this month, a ‘massive festival of football’ will kick-off the season, but AFL Hunter Central Coast has also confirmed there will be plenty more special rounds to be celebrated throughout 2019 for the womens league.

“We are going to be running the three-way representative competition between Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast again in 2019, so that’s exciting,” Zikman confirmed.

“Last year when that ran it came alongside the men’s Cup and Plate competitions, but this year we are planning on having it be its own special fixture played on Easter Monday. We want to create a tradition of having that focus on female representative talent that can showcase the skill that the league has in the region.

“There will of course be the representative round where AFL Hunter Central Coast faces off against teams like AFL South Coast, but that gives just 25 players the chance to step up to that next level and this tri-series gives up to 75 players the chance to share that representative glory.”

The tri-series rep round has been confirmed for Easter Monday, April 22, with Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast contesting the regional crown.

Newcastle and Hunter representative teams faced off in the Black Diamond AFL Tri-Series in 2018. AFL Hunter Central Coast has confirmed the star-studded fixture will return in the new season. Image via Ken Hogan.

Zikman also confirmed the return of the league’s Indigenous Round in 2019, and revealed clubs would have their own options on when to play out that key round.

“We want to make sure every club has the opportunity to celebrate this amazing message, so while we will have a round dedicated to the Indigenous celebrations it’s a loose assignment there,” he said. “Instead, clubs can pick their home games around that date and elect that as their own personal rounds to celebrate that as they see fit.”

There is also a plan to tie the celebrations of ANZAC Day into the competition, with the Cardiff Hawks and Warners Bay Bulldogs preparing to move their Round 4 clash to Thursday, April 25. This event round, which will also see the Black Diamond Cup and Plate fixtures moved to the Thursday, has been chalked in by AFL Hunter Central Coast as an annual change.

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Footy returns sooner than the first official match of the year however, with the annual AFL Women’s gala day set to be played this weekend on Saturday, March 23.

Newcastle City are the 2019 defending champions heading into 2019. Image via Black Diamond AFL.

Last year’s planned format for the gala day was simple – each team plays three short-form matches against other clubs, with match fitness and game-day practice the main aim of the day. Each match will be contested over a half hour period, with two ten minutes halves, and the day will run from 9.30am to mid-afternoon.

2018’s iteration of the gala day was cancelled one day out from the expected event day however, with organisers citing “washed out fields” in Teralba. It was the second straight year the preseason competition had been canned because of foul weather.

With storms expected from Wednesday through to Friday this week, the Chronicle advises all players and fans planning to attend the match to keep track of the status of the gala day. It is predicted to be mostly cloudy on Saturday, with temperatures set to reach a high of 28°.

The AFL Hunter Central Coast Womens 2019 season will kick-off on March 30.