EXCITEMENT is building for the 2022 Nutrien Ag Solutions Country Football Championships, which are returning to the Perth football calendar from July 7 to 10 after a COVID-19 induced two-year hiatus.
Hosted by Seven West Media's Mark Readings, Eagles premiership players and country boys Jamie Cripps, Northampton, and Liam Duggan, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, joined members of the Nutrien Ag Solutions team and Western Australian Football Commission country football development south manager Brent Sheridan for the official fixtures draw broadcast live from Nutrien's head office in North Fremantle last week.
This year marks the 48th year Nutrien Ag Solutions has sponsored the championships, making it the company's longest running sponsorship arrangement in Australia and one of WA country football's most significant sporting partnerships.
Speaking at the draw, Nutrien Ag Solutions region manager west Andrew Duperouzel said it was particularly exciting to have the event back after two years away due to the pandemic.
"All of our stores, all of our staff and all of our customers are in the country so this is something that is important to us and we are very committed to," Mr Duperouzel said.
"In the past two years we saw how country football really needed us to stand by it when incomes and things were affected by the pandemic.
"We are proud that this is our biggest and longest running sponsorship anywhere in the nation."
The draw was done barrier-style using Nutrien Ag Solutions branded footballs each bearing the name of one team, drawn from a tub with Mr Duperouzel officiating for men's division 1, Liam Duggan for men's division 2 and Jamie Cripps for the colts division.
Mr Duggan, who played for his hometown of Bacchus Marsh before being selected at pick 14 in the 2014 AFL draft, knows well the value of country football.
"I played all my junior footy for the Marsh and managed one senior game under (former Hawthorn great) Dougy (Doug) Hawkins," Mr Duggan said.
"Footy was the lifeblood of the town, so I know how exciting it is for everyone involved over here to have these country championships up and going ag ain."
They were sentiments echoed by Mr Cripps, who grew up on a farm in Northampton and said likewise - footy was massive and definitely the heartbeat of his town.
Mr Readings said there were many highlights for people to look forward to at this year's championships, with some former AFL stars involved as both players and coaches and with the WACA set to host the men's division final for the first time on Sunday July 10.
"We've also got the Gascoyne Football Association as a welcome addition for the first time," Mr Readings said.
"In men's division 1 the Avon team will have ex-St Kilda and Claremont star Tom Lee taking the reins and we may even see Sandover medallist Kane Mitchell, who's playing at Quairading, take the field.
"At South West we've got a new coach in Chris Kinninmont and the likes of ex-Fremantle player Jesse Crichton and stars Brad Holmes and Jesse Gribble set to don the green and gold."
In division 2, Mr Readings said former St Kilda, West Coast and Subiaco player Adam Cockie would be leading central Midlands coastal, with State country representative Daniel Acres leading Central Wheatbelt and former WAFL and State country player Alex James coaching.
In total, 12 teams are contesting the men's divisions with five in division 1 and seven in division 2, while the CBH Group colts division will also see seven teams vying for the honours.
The women's country championships will be held later in September.
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