A REMATCH between the Figtree Kangaroos and Wollongong Bulldogs headlines an exciting round one of the 2021 AFL South Coast premier men's competition.
The Kangaroos, who won their maiden premier division flag in 2020, will travel to Keira Oval on Saturday, April 17 to start their title defence.
Elsewhere in the premier men's division, Kiama Power will host the Wollongong Lions at Bonaira Oval, while the Shellharbour Suns battle the Northern Districts Tigers at Myimbarr Oval.
"The grand final replay is an exciting way to start the season, giving the Dogs an opportunity at turning the tables on the Roos," community football and competition manager South Coast Tim Martin said.
"Figtree could come back to the pack a little this season, while the Dogs are always an unknown quantity especially this early in the season.
"It's shaping up to be an evenly contested premier men's competition."
The men's premier division will only feature six sides in 2021 after Bomaderry withdrew.
"It's not ideal that Bomaderry dropped back a division but after doing an extensive analysis of the club's situation, it's clear they're a fair way from where they wanted to be, and this will provide them with an opportunity to rebuild," Martin said.
"It's a strategically important club in the Shoalhaven region to provide that pathway for talented local juniors wanting to play at premier level.
"We'll be sitting down together in the coming weeks to identify the challenges and work on a strategic plan to get the club back into the premier division for the 2022 season."
In the women's six-team premier division, a grand final replay between the newly named Figtree Saints and Wollongong Bulldogs will kick-start the 2021 season.
The Saints set a new standard last season and will remain the favourites going into the 2021 season, but a number of other clubs have recruited strongly and will be keen to test themselves against the benchmark team.
The opening round will also see Bomaderry take on Norths and Kiama play the Lions.
"It's a big year for women's footy on the South Coast, with more teams nominating to play than in 2020," Martin said.
"Albion Park is returning after missing the 2020 season, while players for Bay and Basin and Nowra-Albatross will play under a joint venture banner.
"Women's and youth girls football continues to be the fastest-growing segment of our game, and the current structure now provides a full pathway for players from early junior years right through to senior and even elite-level football."
The season will consist of 16 rounds, concluding on August 21, before the finals series begins - with the 2021 grand final day being held on Saturday, September 11 at North Dalton Park.
In the lower grades, the men's division one and two will feature nine and seven teams respectively, while there are eight sides in the women's division one competition.