Lions take step backwards to make step up

AUSSIE RULES

With a new coach and a new competition, the Illawarra Lions begin the first step in a rebuilding phase with Saturday's opening-round away clash against St George in the Sydney AFL.

After a couple of tough seasons in the elite NSW Premier Division, the Lions chose to take the step back to the second-tier First Division competition with Dave Nolen as their new player-coach.

Nolen says the long-term goal is a return to the Premier Division but the club must consolidate.

Dave Nolen and some of his Illawarra Lions recruits.

Dave Nolen and some of his Illawarra Lions recruits.

"In many regards it'll be a rebuilding year with a host of new players in a new comp, but we want to establish ourselves again."

"It may take a couple of seasons to build ourselves up again but we believe we can achieve that."

Nolen expects the Lions to play finals this season, with the club looking for a strong start against derby rivals St George. The clash at Olds Park has a 10am start.

In a blow to the Lions, the club's under-19s have withdrawn from the Sydney comp.