QUEANBEYAN Tigers player/coach Kade Klemke says the NEAFL’s consolidation into a single conference competition means only the strongest ACT affiliated side will likely qualify for next year’s finals.
Next year’s NEAFL draw, which was released last Friday, confirmed that the competition’s two-conference system featuring an Eastern and Northern league has been scrapped.
In its place, all 14 NEAFL sides will compete against each other in a single competition.
While a majority of Queanbeyan’s games will still be against Canberra sides, the rejigged draw means the Tigers will also be competing for a finals spot against the likes of the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns reserves.
Queanbeyan will also be up against Queensland heavyweights Aspley, Redland and Southport alongside more familiar opponents like Ainslie and the Sydney Swans Reserves.
At least three sides from Canberra and Queanbeyan qualified for the Eastern Conference finals in each of the tournament’s first three seasons.
But Klemke said the new format meant there would now be no room for error against the club’s traditional rivals.
“The likelihood is that only the strongest side from Canberra will make the finals next year,” he said. “Two teams could make it but I think one is more likely.
“It just means that we can’t afford to drop games against the other Canberra sides and still be a hope of making finals.
“Last year we lost games to teams like Eastlake and Ainslie and still almost made the finals. If that happens next year, we’ll be no chance.”
The 2014 NEAFL draw will see Queanbeyan play 18 matches with the Tigers first game against Sydney Uni at Dairy Farmers Park on April 5.
The following week will see Queanbeyan play a curtain raiser against the Sydney Swans Reserves prior to the Swans AFL clash with North Melbourne at the SCG.