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.

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In a blow to the Lions, the club's under-19s have withdrawn from the Sydney comp.

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