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Ainslie backs title decider

Date

David Polkinghorne

Ainslie coach Chris Rourke.

Ainslie coach Chris Rourke. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

Ainslie has backed the beleaguered NEAFL inter-conference grand final, despite its future being in doubt after just two seasons.

The decider pits the winner of the Canberra-based eastern conference against the premier of the Queensland-based northern one.

It means they have to back up just a week after celebrating their conference premierships, and some clubs have questioned the concept.

Most clubs focus on winning their conference, with the overall grand final just an afterthought.

The NEAFL is reviewing the game's future and will make a decision by the end of the year, when its fixtures will be finalised.

But Ainslie, which played in the inaugural inter-conference grand final against NT Thunder in Darwin last year, has backed the concept and wants it to continue.

General manager John Smith said the final just needed more time and eventually it would become the main focus of the competition.

He said he was ''surprised'' it was even being discussed.

''We still take the local grand final as the just reward for the season and I'd say that the inter-conference one is not the pinnacle at the moment but I think it needs time,'' Smith told The Canberra Times.

''A lot of blokes started referring to it being a manufactured thing and I said, 'So was the Super Bowl'.

''At one stage those two leagues didn't talk to each other either and now it's one of the great sporting events. You just need to give it time to evolve.''

NEAFL eastern conference manager Jack Masters said the league's preference was for the inter-conference decider to continue but it would take into account the wishes of its clubs before making a decision. If it decides the game should go ahead, it will also look at the best time to play it.

Masters said it would all be decided before Christmas.

''It's under review, let's be honest, it's a challenge for the two clubs that qualify for that game, we understand that,'' Masters said. ''We still think potentially it has a future in what we're doing but like everything it's being reviewed as we speak.''

Ainslie coach Chris Rourke was also in favour of the game.

He said the trip to Darwin last year was a great way to end the season and the club had desperately wanted to win it. Rourke thought if the timing was a problem, an option would be to move it to the start of the following season.

It would then kick off the NEAFL season, similar to how the NAB Cup signals the start of the AFL.

''It's an interesting one: do you do it as a practice match? Maybe if you do it at the start of the season or the start of the pre-seasons or something like that,'' Rourke said.

''I thought it was OK [the way it was]. I know we had a big night the night you win the premiership and then you straighten yourself up, but the boys were very good.

''You're obviously in good touch, that's what I like about it. Both sides are really equal and you both have the same preparation and both had the celebrations.''

Northern conference clubs will meet league officials on Friday to discuss the grand final's future.

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