Dockers delivering in South West Rocks

South West Rocks is situated on NSW’s north coast, 100 kilometres south of Coffs Harbour and 75 kilometres north of Port Macquarie. The holiday town is known for its pristine beaches, beautiful national parks… and sports-mad community.

Almost 2,000 people follow South West Rocks’ local rugby league team on Facebook and in a town of just over 5,000, that’s a lot.

However, in the junior ranks, AFL is starting to make a splash. The South West Rocks Dockers field U11 and U13 teams in the mixed competition and is looking to expand into senior women’s and men’s competition in the coming years.

The Dockers started in the AFL North Coast junior league in 2018 and this weekend it will play its first final. The U11 team is leading this town into unchartered waters.


Road to the finals

South West Rocks’ U11 side has had a slightly uneven season. It’s either a goal-scoring powerhouse or one that’s a little distracted on game day.

When it wins, the team consistently gets close to or over the 60-point mark – quite a feat for a bunch of 10-year-olds, many of which are playing their first season.

The team’s coach, Mark Plummer, also the club’s Treasurer, former President and founder, said of their inconsistent form: “Because they’re under-11s, you can turn up and it’s like half your team’s asleep. The next week they’re all fired up and ready to go. You don’t know what you’re going to get.”

The side edged out second-placed Coffs Harbour Breakers last weekend to book themselves into their first ever final. It was a seesawing affair that saw the Dockers come home strong in the final term to take a 17-point victory (10.9 to 8.4).

The home side had a big crowd of family and friends attend, all of which were cheering hard for the Dockers, who failed to score against the Breakers in their previous meeting.

“The mums were that excited, it was hilarious,” said Plummer of the team’s avid fan base.


Two matches to glory

The Dockers will undoubtedly head into Sunday’s clash with the undefeated Port [Macquarie] Flyers as underdogs.

The Flyers have enjoyed a perfect season, notching 13-straight wins to go alongside their blemish-free Premiership year in 2020.

The winner plays either Coffs Harbour Breakers or Sawtell-Toormina Saints in the big dance.

Plummer’s son, Ambrose, and his team mates, Ned and Rusty, come into the match with supreme confidence, saying “we’re gonna smash them,” in unison when asked how the team will perform against the indomitable Port Flyers.


David and Goliath

South West Rocks defeating Coffs last weekend was a coup for the small town. Coffs has a population 15-times the size of South West Rocks.

This weekend’s clash sees the Dockers play against a town with a population nine-times its own, with two U11 footy teams and an overflowing trophy cabinet.

However, Plummer is not concerned with the win-loss column, although he concedes that a final here or there will help the club gain a few extra members.

“The main thing is to keep the fun,” he said. “AFL stands for Australian Football League, but at the Rocks Dockers, it stands for ‘A Fun Life’ – there’s no pressure, it’s all fun.”


Room to grow

Since 2018 the Dockers’ have used pop-up marquees as change rooms for players and for their pre-game and half-time address, but this is about to change in a big way.

The Kempsey Shire Council has recently turned the first sod on South West Rocks’ Mid North Coast High Performance Centre, a brand new facility to house local sporting clubs and host events.

A facility with 662 seats (catering for more than 10 per cent of the town’s population!) raised eyebrows from jealous neighbours, but it will be shared across all winter codes, Little Athletics and other sports – a true community hub.

“This High Performance Centre is going to be a game changer for us,” Plummer said about the new facility. “To not have your own club rooms and then get a facility like that, we’re just going to be over the moon.”


Ut Ludere Et Promote

If the U11 Dockers can defeat Port on the weekend and book itself a place in the grand final, it’ll be a feather in the cap for Plummer and his players.

So aware of the town’s sporting pecking order, the U11s train twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays) to allow players to participate in other sports without missing footy training. This seems to have stood them in good stead and enabled them to gel as a team.

The club’s motto is Ut Ludere Et Promote – To Play and To Promote. With more than 60 kids signed up for the 2021 season, including more than 30 Auskickers, they’re certainly living up to their motto.


Good luck to the Dockers and everyone playing finals this weekend.

AFL NSW/ACT is heading on a road trip…digitally! Look out for us in a town near you.