Peter McGrath, left, has played over 200 games for the Tuggeranong Hawks, while Ashley Pocock will play his 200th game for the club on Saturday. Photo: Melissa Adams
Before its last home game as part of the NEAFL competition, Tuggeranong coach Peter McGrath has urged the AFL not to abandon grassroots football in the ACT.
The Hawks agreed not to renew their license in the Eastern conference competition after discussions with the AFL in July.
McGrath was unsure of the direction the AFL wanted to take in the region, but urged the governing bodies to nurture football in the area.
''[AFL] would be foolish to neglect grassroots footy, particularly in Canberra,'' McGrath said.
The decision to restructure the competition comes at a strange time, considering the boom in AFL participation in the region with the AFL Auskick program attracting a 15 per cent increase in participation in Canberra between 2011 and 2012.
Add to that the efforts of Greater Western Sydney to increase the marketability of the game in the ACT and the decision to decrease teams in the Eastern conference appears at odds with the state of the game.
While the situation means a new chapter for the Hawks, McGrath said they would still play a big part in the local competition.
With the Tuggeranong side languishing down the bottom of the NEAFL table, McGrath hoped the sense of occasion would inspire the team against Eastlakes Demons this weekend.
Club co-captain Ashley Pocock will play his 200th game for the club.
''I'm personally very proud of staying with Tuggeranong Valley,'' Pocock said. ''The game will be business as usual though.''
Pocock admitted it was ''shattering'' to take the news when he was told it would be the club's swansong season in NEAFL.
In an extra twist, it is thought Tuggeranong could become a feeder side for the Demons from next year.
Pocock said he would decide his future at the end of the season.
Both coach and captain were impressed with last week's performance, knowing a poor first quarter cost the Hawks the win against Hills Eagles.
"We matched them and beat them after the first quarter," McGrath said
Both captain and coach agreed that if Tuggeranong was able to fix up its first quarter showings, it was in with a big chance at upsetting the Demons on Saturday.
An Eastlake victory would assure it of a spot in the finals, while a loss would leave the door open for Queanbeyan Tigers to sneak past.