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Mackay deal excites Bella

SUNS TV: Mackay Announcement Presser Hear the full press conference from Mackay with GC SUNS CEO Mark Evans, Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson and SUNS Academy product Lauren Bella.

On Tuesday the Gold Coast SUNS announced a new four-year partnership for its Women’s AFL Football program with Mackay Regional Council.

The deal will see the SUNS play a match each year at Harrup Park in Mackay, including three matches for AFLW competition points from 2020-2022.

For Mackay-born Lauren Bella, a member of the Gold Coast SUNS Academy and Winter Series team, it is an opportunity to see her hometown showcased on the national stage.

“It’s obviously a big step forward for Mackay football, there’s a lot of generated interest already,” Bella said at Tuesday’s launch.

“With this partnership it’s just going to help Mackay football improve immensely, particularly the female participation as well.

“I think it’s really important for girls to know here that there’s something to look forward to, that there is a way in careers and that we can be considered elite athletes as well.”

SUNS CEO Mark Evans said the initiative, which would also see Mackay Waterfront branding prominently positioned on both Women’s Winter Series and AFLW apparel, would help grow the game in Queensland. 

“It’s a real chance for us to showcase women’s AFL in central and north Queensland and that will hold benefits for participants, players, umpires, volunteers, coaches and getting a real community feel around some of the clubs in the region,” Evans said.

“There’s 110,000 female participants in AFL in Queensland alone.

“We would hope in the years to come that we can help double that number.”

Evans said it would also be a golden opportunity for the Mackay community to get behind hometown hero Bella and closely follow her journey to the AFLW.

“It will inspire so many girls, if you think about Mackay’s own Lauren Bella, a product of the SUNS Academy and named the All-Australian ruck just a couple of weeks ago,” Evans said.

“(There’s a) career that is now in front of her because she’s had that pathway and because there is an opportunity for her to go to the national stage.

“We want them to fall in love with our game and by association in love with the SUNS.” 

Mackay Regional Council Mayor Cr Greg Williamson praised the efforts of both sides to manufacture a deal with so many benefits. 

“It’s an initiative designed to give pathways for young people but more importantly it’s an initiative to get women interested in sport,” Mayor Williamson said. 

“The fastest growing sport for women in Australia at the moment is AFL so it will be fantastic for our community to be part of that growth. 

“We’re looking forward to four years of good sportsmanship and a great deal.”