Narrabri Eagles pre-season training kicked off on Tuesday evening, and the local Australian rules football club now has its sights set on an AFLNW competition comeback in 2021.

The Eagles have endured a rocky few years due to player availability, with numbers mainly impacted by injury and work commitments, as well as players relocating towns or even moving overseas.

There has been no footy played at ‘the Eagles’ nest’ Leitch Oval since Saturday, April 27, 2019, days before the club went into recess.

The Eagles were forced to pull out of the 2019 campaign after playing just two games due to a lack of numbers.

In 2017, the club played three games before succumbing to the same fate due to the same issues.

The Eagles have not played a game since a 21.18 (144) to 2.5 (17) loss away from home against the Tamworth Kangaroos on Saturday, May 4, 2019.

Dedicated club members were working hard behind the scenes to ensure the club was able to field a side in 2020, and a joint venture with the Moree Suns was even discussed before the Eagles pulled the pin on the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, citing player and community safety as the primary reason.

The club is now hoping that all those issues are in the past and it will be able to field a side in 2021.

Narrabri Eagles president Tom Carberry told The Courier he was hopeful that the club would compete in the 2021 AFLNW season.

“We definitely are [aiming to play in the AFLNW season in 2021],” Carberry said.

“We are currently trying to get a gauge on what our player base is going to be.

“Talking to our core players, they are committed again this year which is great.

“We have a deadline for the middle of February to let the league know if we are going to push ahead.

“So now we’ll see how pre-season goes and we’ll go from there.

“We are obviously looking for more players but there are lots of other roles for people who want to be a part of the club but don’t want to play.

“We encourage everyone to come down – men, women, any guys aged 12-14 upwards.”

Carberry said that he enjoyed his first year as club president, despite being chucked in the deep end as the COVID-19 pandemic arose, and added that he was honoured to be re-elected at the club’s annual general meeting in December last year.

Ben Crawley is the club’s vice-president for 2021, Robyn Faber is secretary and Gabbie Collier is treasurer, and several committee members nominated as well.

Experienced clubman and 2021 committee member Dan Nixon has been tasked with pre-season coaching (see left) and will be the Eagles’ player-coach while the club seeks a full-time head coach.

Nixon ran the first training session of the season on Tuesday afternoon, putting some keen Eagles players through their paces.

He said that training would be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 6.30pm at Leitch Oval, and sessions would mainly include on-the-ball activity.

“Everyone is welcome, any males or females from about 14-years-old and up who want to have a run and a kick can come down,” Nixon said.

“We want to get a team back on the park this year but people from other codes can come along too.

“We’ll be mostly running with the ball, there’s no point running the guts out of everybody.

“Everybody needs skills so we’ll focus on that.

“People can do their own fitness on the side but down here we’ll be working on the game with the balls.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles are planning to host the Crossroads Cup pre-season tournament again in 2021.

Carberry said that he was working with other club presidents to determine what their thoughts were.

He said that ultimately the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing restrictions in place would determine whether or not the tournament will go ahead this year.

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