Guns to kick on in southern exposure
AUSSIE RULES: In further proof that the AFL Capricornia competition is developing into a pathway for players to help further their careers, a number of Gladstone and BITS players are trying their luck in higher-level competitions.
One of those is Gladstone Mudcrabs' key forward Stephen Eilola.
The 27-year-old has signed with 2017 QAFL runner-up Labrador Tigers and fellow Muddies player Zac Jahn is almost also almost certain to continue to be Eilola's team-mate at the Tigers.
BITS pair Ben Dempsey and Kane Haua are likely to find new homes at Morningside and Labrador respectively.
AFL Capricornia club league development manager Peter Young has been the main player to encourage these players to test themselves.
"Peter Young has pushed me a fair way this season individually as a player where he pushed me to North Queensland selection and got to play at that level of football," Eilola said.
The powerful forward booted 61 goals in 13 games and has been a mainstay at Gladstone Mudcrabs for 12 seasons, six of which he was captain.
Now's the time to build up his fitness to prepare himself in the strongest competition in Queensland.
Eilola spoke with Young at the end of the season which eventually led to him signing a contract last Friday.
Brisbane Lions premiership and former Port Adelaide Power player Aaron Shattock is the coach of the Tigers and Eilola said Eilola signed a one-year contract.
"It's just a one-year contract to start with and obviously depending on how I perform in a game-day situation and at training, whether they re-sign me at the end of the year," Eilola said.
"My focus is to get through a good season in QAFL football and with the Labrador Football Club."
Labrador have lost a couple of forwards from this season, but Eilola said he is capable to play in a variety of positions.
"I'll try and fight for a full-forward position, but I'll be happy anywhere," he said.
"I've got a bit of knowledge around the ground and hoping to sit around the forward pocket or forward flank sort of area."
Former St Kilda, Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs forward Barry Hall made eight appearances with Labrador this season which included the grand final and Eilola was unsure if 'Bazza' would suit up again.
"I haven't met any of the players yet and I will hopefully try and get down there in a couple of weeks when I find work and meet the guys and get a good pre-season in," Eilola said.
Young said it's just a matter of the AFL Capricornia players to knuckle down and believe they have what it takes to play in a higher grade.
"I saw him (Eilola) as a talent and I think he can play midfield if he can get his fitness level up," Young said.
"I think there are a number of players who have a good fitness base and there are opportunities down south for them.
"Our league has to be a pathway for players to have a crack and I want to help players do that."