FOOTBALL Mid North Coast will try something new this year when the Premier League first grade grand final is played under lights.
The season decider will be played on September 23 from 7.30pm at Regional Stadium as a culmination of what chairman Mike Parsons said would be a “festival of football”.
The day will start from 10am with all junior age groups expected to participate in a 12-hour footballing feast.
Parsons said it had been 12 months in the making and they were hopeful it would be a precursor to future grand finals.
The under-17 and under-18 zone championships will be played on the same day with the respective grand final winners of the two zones to play against each other.
“We’ve tried to run zone championships before and they have failed because we’ve run them too late after the grand final or they haven’t felt there is anything to play for,” Parsons said.
“Next year they’re introducing the state championship so it’s a very opportune time to reinvent the zone championships.”
Parsons admitted the “festival of football” would also provide an opportunity for junior players to play on the best standard of pitch in the region.
“We also hope the general profile of our game will be brought over to a different variety of people,” he said.
“With our grand final under lights it will give an enormous atmosphere and hopefully draw a bigger crowd which would be deserving of a Premier League grand final.”
Football Mid North Coast hope this year will be the first of many grand finals to be played under lights.
“We envisage we will keep this format if it were to be successful because it gives our Premier League grand final that special feeling,” Parsons said.
Parsons said any one of the current top five teams could play in the grand final, such was the closeness of the competition.
“Macleay Valley Rangers are arguably favourites at this stage,” he said.
“They have been missing in action from our grand finals and have been perennial grand finalists since inception so there is a big chance they may be back on the big dance.
“Then there is Port Saints who have gone from first to last and back to real contenders again and Port United are having a good season.
“Taree Wildcats, Wallis Lake are a chance and then Kempsey Saints are just out at this stage.”
Unlike previous seasons, Parsons was confident the Premier League grand final would benefit from having a good playing surface.
With the Group 3 grand final expected to be played on August 27, there will be a four week break between each grand final.
“This year they’ve got a bit more breathing space in between grand finals,” Parsons said.