The Nineties and Beyond

So, where are we now?
Jonathon Sargeant

The New England Nomads Australian Football Club continues a long tradition of Australian Football in Armidale.The Nomads compete in the Tamworth Australian Football League and represents UNE at The Australian University Games. Home games are played at the superb Bellevue Oval at UNE, Armidale. The Nomads welcome everyone from everywhere with the motto: No experience, No worries! If you want a game you’ll get a game. Australian Football re-emerged as a force at UNE in 1999. Footy had been languishing since the early 90s with Robert Woods doing his best to keep some interest in the sport.

In 1997 and 1998 he had established a strong link with the South Coffs Harbour Swans and many UNE students would travel to the coast on the weekend to play in the North Coast AFL. Rob Woods also organised an annual match between UNE and the Swans, which was well supported. But apart from a couple of golf days, Aussie Rules and Armidale didn’t mix. After a year of playing in Coffs Harbour, Robert Woods and myself approached the Tamworth AFL about entering a side. We were told: “You can join as long as you don’t flog us every week”. A committee was formed and Sargeant was elected president.

The committee voted on a name and the Nomads were born. It’s now part of folklore that on the night before the Nomads first game in the TAFL Sargeant was still at the New England Hotel at 3 am trying to get kitchen staff to play to get the numbers up. They did and the first official game was held at Bellevue Oval with the Nomads going downs to the Tamworth Eagles 73-106. Despite the loss, the Nomads had arrived. With the establishment of the New England Nomads, students and locals of Armidale have been able to enjoy a strong local participation in Australian football in the TAFL. With a growing supporter and player base, Australian Football and the Nomads quickly became a valued member of the UNE and Armidale sporting landscape. The Nomads familiar logo (representing a football inside a compass) and team song enhanced the promotion of the club and its sponsors throughout the media. In less than 12 months a competitive and highly regarded Club for it’s professionalism and sportspersonship evolved and was well set for future club success. As the club was virtually starting from scratch, much work was undertaken in establishing loyalty to sponsors (mainly the Newie), fundraising and general promotion throughout Armidale and the region. The goodwill received from the whole community was very encouraging. The year’s success was rewarded with the club being named Sport UNE Club of the Year.

Some 1999 Highlights

  • 1999 Minor Premiers and flag runners-up
  • Over 41 players participate in one or more games for the Club.
  • UNE hosted the inaugural Tablelands Cup tournament between Tamworth, Coffs Harbour and Armidale.
  • The Club provided 10 representative players for the TAFL team which won the 1999 Northern NSW Australian Football Championships
  • UNE Australian Football represented at The Australian University games in Perth and finished 12th.This participation provided a great experience for all players with the team one win away from the Quarter finals before injury took it’s toll.
  • UNE’s Phillip Knowles was honoured with selection in the AUG Merit team. This was a great individual tribute to Apples but also reflected the strength of the whole Club in 1999.

2000 was a year of great success and growth for Australian Football at UNE.

Establishment of a second team – the Armidale Wanderers – to play in the TAFL; 2000 Minor Premiers; 2000 Major premiers defeating the Tamworth Magpies.

Over 60 players taking the field throughout the season.

UNE hosted the second Tablelands Cup tournament between Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Armidale.

The Club provided 10 representative players for the TAFL team in the 2000 Northern NSW Australian Football Championships UNE Australian Football represented at The Australian University games in Ballarat and finished 10th.

UNE’s Phillip Knowles was honoured with selection in the AUG Merit team for the second year running.

We had a highly successful season in 2001. In addition to increasing membership levels the club continued to set the standard for Australian Football in the region.

Some major achievements for the Nomads in 2001 included going through the season undefeated culminating in the 2001 Major and Minor premierships.

The club performed well at the University Games in Townsville and Sydney and conducted the popular Presidents Trophy competition.

The Nomads were grateful to Sport UNE for the provision of a light tower at Bellevue for training — this has helped develop a true home ground feeling. The Nomads also undertook the promotion of Australian Rules at the junior level in Armidale and under Mark Strong, organised regular coaching clinics for juniors in the region.

The club was involved in many fundraising activities throughout the year including phone book deliveries and a port drive. We also increased our sponsorship base. The club also developed a social venue at Bellevue Oval for fundraising and entertainment at training and match days.

2001 highlights

  • 2001 TAFL Major and Minor premiership for the second consecutive year.
  • Hosted the Third annual Tablelands Cup tournament between Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Armidale
  • Hosted and provided 10 representative players in the 2001 Northern NSW Australian Football Championships in Armidale
  • Represented at the Northern and Australian University Games 2002

Season 2002 could best be described as a rebuilding year. With many senior players either graduating from UNE or leaving town, the club was not always able to field a full strength side. It did however allow many people new to the game to have a go. We maintained a professional approach and although our on field performances were down, we still maintained the support of the community.

Season 2003 was a year for revitalising the club. It was important to ensure promotion and fundraising to prepare the club for the year and future seasons, particularly in relation to the large number of away games to Gunnedah, Tamworth and Muswellbrook. While the Nomads experienced a major resurgence on the field in the TAFL, without a doubt the biggest achievement was the introduction and development of New England Rules Football (NERF). With the inclusion of this new sport into the Mary Bagnall program and the huge success and positive feedback, we have opened up Australian football to more people than ever before. We see and plan for further developments and are excited by the interest expressed from far beyond Armidale. The development of NERF giving juniors, casual players and especially women the opportunity to play a modified version of AFL. This has been overwhelmingly successful with regular liaison with college reps and other groups for games to be organised.

2003 highlights

  • 2003 TAFL minor premiers. A significant improvement on 2002 (wooden spoon).
  • Hosted the fifth annual Tablelands Cup tournament between Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Armidale (Runner Up)
  • Represented UNE at the Northern University Games (Brisbane) 2003.
  • Organised and participated in the 2003 Presidents Trophy competition.
  • Organised and participated in the 2003 Mary Bagnall Trophy competition (NERF).
  • Hosted the 2003 TAFL Grand Final.

In 2004 the Club continues to go from strength to strength.

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the winning of the 2004 TAFL flag with a great victory over the Tamworth Kangaroos.

Over the years we have fielded teams that would hold their own in any part of the country and given a lot of people a chance to enjoy the great Australian game.

The tradition continues.

Ron Crump

The 2005 season was a bit of a curate’s egg, a large player turnover resulting in inconsistency on the paddock.

Post-season, Sarge left Armidale and the club to take up a post elsewhere. The future promises to be exciting as the club tries to keep moving forward on both the playing and community fronts.

Re-visit regularly for updates.

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