The State Country Football Championships are coming to Victor Harbor on Saturday, July 10, and Sunday, July 11, and the Fleurieu has attracted a showpiece game.
Besides the best of country football coming to the region in both Open Men and Open Women, the South Adelaide Football Club will play the Adelaide Football Cub at Victor Harbor oval on the Saturday at 2.30pm.
Men's and Women's teams will come from all over the state, as the Southern Districts Zone hosts its first State Country Football Championships.
The zones are Eastern, Central, Northern, Eyre Peninsula, Murray South East and Southern.
The Open Women competition will be played at Victor Harbor oval and the Men will play at Encounter Bay oval.
Due to COVID, the championships could not be held in 2020, but new life has blossomed in 2021 with the Fleurieu Peninsula hosting on two of the best football grounds in the state.
Both the Victor Harbor and Encounter Bay football clubs have upgraded amenities to host the event, spending in excess of $1 million each.
In 2019, Central were triumphant in the Men and Southern Districts won the Women's championships. The Women's championships has been a successful implementation into the program with Eastern winning in its first year (2018).
The Men's championships started in 1994 and over the years Southern Districts have won 10 championships. The last win was in 2015 and the home zone will be striving to grab back the title on its home patch.
The Southern zone has the support of the City of Victor Harbor and this partnership has enabled the Fleurieu to host the 2021 Think! Road Safety SA Country Football Championships.
Victor Harbor and surrounding towns will welcome more than 500 players, umpires and volunteers, as well as thousands of spectators, across the weekend of July 10 - 11, following its successful bid .
The bid had the support of high profile Great Southern and AFL stars Tony Modra, who will be the Southern Zone ambassador for the championships and Ryan Griffen who played junior football at Goolwa.
"It is wonderful to have the championships here in our region, as we will see the best of the best in country football played at the Victor and Bay ovals," Tony Modra said.
Ryan Griffen said it was "awesome" to host the championships.
Great Southern Football League president Terry Corcoran said the Southern Districts Zone community, including Southern Football League and Kangaroo Island Football League, were "genuinely excited" about hosting the event in 2021.
"These championships will give the Fleurieu Peninsula an opportunity to put our hospitality on display to the South Australian football community and we welcome the Country Football Zones to our backyard," Mr Corcoran said.
"I assure all of the Zones that the GSFL clubs and their great band of volunteers, along with the Victor Harbor community, will go out of their way to make their visit an enjoyable one."
The City of Victor Harbor sees the potential of hosting the event with a commitment of $30,000 cash and $5000 in-kind support in the 2021-22 financial year.
Chief Executive Officer of the City of Victor Harbor Victoria MacKirdy said the championships provided an opportunity to showcase the city, particularly its great sporting facilities and tourism offerings.
"It will also provide a significant injection into our local economy during our traditionally quieter winter period," Ms MacKirdy said.
"The Great Southern Football League and all of those who worked tirelessly to secure this event for Victor Harbor and the region are to be commended."
In previous years the championships have generated in excess of $500,000 to towns such as Port Pirie, Murray Bridge, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln.
SANFL Head of Community Football Lisa Faraci said the Championships would provide significant economic and social benefits for all clubs in the Great Southern Football League as well as the wider Victor Harbor community.
"The Country Championships have become a significant event for community football in regional South Australia over the years and we're thrilled for its return in 2021," Ms Faraci said.
"Regional communities and footy clubs have been doing it tough, so this is an exciting opportunity to increase participation, bring people together and assist regional footy.
"This will also be a fantastic opportunity for Encounter Bay Football Club to capitilise on its new $975,000 facility, which was completed this year."
Ms Faraci also acknowledged the continuing support of the Country Championships' naming rights partner, Think! Road Safety, for Community Football in South Australia.
"The State Government's support, through its Think! Road Safety brand, for regional football across South Australia has been unwavering, even throughout such challenging times," Ms Faraci said.
"Without this valuable partnership, which also helps to drive home the vital message and education about road safety via our football community, events such as the Country Championships would not be possible."
The games begin at 9am at both grounds on Saturday, July 10, with qualifying matches. On the Sunday, preliminary matches and the grand final will be played.
Qualifying Matches Men (Saturday) will be played in two halves of 20 minutes plus time on.
Preliminary Matches Men (Sunday) (3v4 and 5v6) will be played over four quarters of 20 minutes with no time on.
Grand Final Men (Sunday) (1v2) will be played over four quarters of 17 minutes with time on.
Qualifying Matches Women (Saturday) will be played in two halves of 17 minutes with no time on.
Finals Matches Women (Sunday) will be played over four quarters of 15 minutes with no time on.
At the end of the championships there will be a Male and Female Team of the Championships, Male and Female Player of the Championships, Under 21 Player of the Championships, Leading Goalkicker awards, Coach and Umpire of the Championships.
SANFL - South Adelaide v Adelaide Crows
South Adelaide are entrenched in the five and are on a mission to bust the premiership drought. The last Panther flag was in 1964.
But the Panthers, as they have done in the past, are proud to bring SANFL football to its region.
South Adelaide CEO Neill Sharpe said to come to Victor Harbor and showcase SANFL football was a wonderful opportunity and raised the profile of the South Adelaide Football Club in its zone.
"For South Adelaide to play in its backyard is important. We have had good results from the Great Southern, Southern and Kangaroo Island football leagues coming to South in underage, Reserves and League. It is a pathway to be respected," Neill said.
"We are looking forward to the game."
South Adelaide League coach Jarrad Wright said the club was proud to be part of the South Australian Country Championships.
"It is going to be great to put on an exhibition show for the local community. To see Zone footy and to top it off with a SANFL game with AFL listed players will make the weekend an event to remember," Jarrad said.
"There will be local talent from the region playing in the game with Fitt, Sampson, Tarca, Heaslip, McKinnon and Overall playing League football in 21.
"It is crucial we get the two points. Adelaide is a formidable side with 15 or 16 AFL players on their list and they are close to full strength. The Crows have a very healthy list at the moment."
Former Carlton and Adelaide Crows player Bryce Gibbs said the game in Victor Harbor was special.
"There is a family connection with Dad (Ross Gibbs) playing for Victor Harbor and I have fond memories of running water, doing the scoreboard and running amok with other Victor kids in those years," Bryce said.
"To actually play a game of footy at Victor Harbor oval for two points is very cool. I am sure Dad will give me some tips on the good scoring end."
Bryce said the side had been a little down in recent weeks, as his own form and plans to rectify that on July 10.
"I am feeling good and looking forward to the game. It will be great to play here, as we have a lot of kids from the zone in our development squads and they will get to see elite footy. I urge all kids to get along. Everyone loves their football on the Fleurieu Peninsula, so I am sure we will have a great turn out." he said..
While South Australia continues to operate in a COVID normal manner with very few restrictions on activities currently in place, it is very important that we remain vigilant of the risks and do not get complacent.
The following COVIDSafe Procedures will be in place across the event at both venues: Venues operating under approved COVID Management Plans. Density of 3 persons per 4sqm (or 75%) in all areas. All patrons (including players and officials) must check-in at the venue by using the QR code or manual log. Professional cleaners engaged to ensure high standard of hygiene, with cleaning of change rooms and match day areas to occur between each user group, with regular spot cleaning of other areas. COVID Marshals present to assist with compliance (each team should also have an appointed COVID Marshal). All patrons (including players and officials) meet venue entry assessment requirements.