The North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) was formed in 2011 to improve the standard of second-tier football across Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
Consequently, it has allowed the retention of four AFL club teams – Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney and GWS – in the competition as well as provide a greater opportunity for home grown talent to remain in their home state whilst continually their goal to reach the AFL level.
It its inaugural season the league comprised of teams from the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) and the AFL Canberra competition, plus the Sydney Swans and Northern Territory Thunder.
The Gold Coast Suns and the GWS Giants also joined the league for the first time in 2011, coinciding with Gold Coast’s first season in the AFL while GWS were preparing to enter the AFL in 2012.
The teams were split into two conferences, a 10-team Northern (Morningside, Southport, Redland, Labrador, Mt Gravatt, Aspley, Broadbeach, NT Thunder, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns) and a seven-team Eastern (Ainslie, Eastlake, Tuggeranong, Queanbeyan, Belconnen, GWS Giants and Sydney Swans).
The clubs predominately played each other within their respective conferences apart from one or twice a season when they would play cross-conference matches.
At the end of the season the winner of the Northern Conference would play the winner of the Eastern Conference for the NEAFL Championship. NT Thunder won the first ever NEAFL Championship when they defeated Morningside in the Northern Conference Final in Brisbane, and Ainslie in the NEAFL Championship Final in Alice Springs the following week.
In 2012, two new teams joined the Eastern Conference – Sydney University and Sydney Hills Eagles (elevated from the AFL Sydney competition).
The Brisbane Lions were NEAFL Champions in 2012, defeating NT Thunder in the Northern Conference Final before travelling to Canberra and defeating Eastern Conference premier Queanbeyan.
Brisbane made it back-to-back title wins in 2013 when they first overcame Aspley before pushing aside fellow AFL club Sydney to claim their second championship.
At the end of the 2013 season the NEAFL announced major structural changes to the competition as part of the league’s long-term focus on increased competition standard and enhanced talent pathways.
As a result, five clubs left the competition and the conference system was abolished. Broadbeach, Labrador, Morningside and Mt Gravatt exited the NEAFL and re-joined a restructured QAFL competition, while Tuggeranong went back to the AFL Canberra Division 1 competition.
The two conferences were merged into a single 14-team competition with Aspley winning its first ever NEAFL Grand Final with a thrilling two-point victory over the Sydney Swans in Brisbane. Daniel Smith was the hero, kicking a 50m goal on the siren to cap a remarkable comeback from the Hornets where they came from 31 points down early in the last quarter.
Due to the financial challenges of participating in the competition, Belconnen, Queanbeyan and the Sydney Hills Eagles chose to leave the NEAFL at the end of the 2014 season, leaving 11 teams to battle it out for the premiership in 2015.
In another thrilling conclusion to the season, NT Thunder defeated Aspley by one point in front of a league record of nearly 6000 fans at TIO Stadium in Darwin.
At the end of the 2015 season, Ainslie announced it would be leaving the competition. As a result, Eastlake renamed its NEAFL side to the Canberra Demons to represent the entire region as the sole team in Canberra.
The NEAFL also plays representative matches each year. From 2011-2013 the league fielded two separate Northern and Eastern Conference sides before the first ever combined NEAFL representative team played in 2014.
The NEAFL played two matches that year, an 85-point loss to the West Australian Football League (WAFL) in Sydney and a 41-point loss to the Tasmanian Football League (TSL) in Hobart.
The league produced its first ever representative victory when it defeated Tasmania by 20 points on June 7, 2015 in Queensland.
Participating Clubs 2011-2016
|NT Thunder||NT Thunder||NT Thunder||NT Thunder||NT Thunder||NT Thunder|
|Brisbane Lions||Brisbane Lions||Brisbane Lions||Brisbane Lions||Brisbane Lions||Brisbane Lions|
|Gold Coast Suns||Gold Coast Suns||Gold Coast Suns||Gold Coast Suns||Gold Coast Suns||Gold Coast Suns|
|Sydney Swans||Sydney Swans||Sydney Swans||Sydney Swans||Sydney Swans||Sydney Swans|
|GWS Giants||GWS Giants||GWS Giants||GWS Giants||GWS Giants||GWS Giants|
|Mt Gravatt||Sydney University||Sydney University||Sydney University|
|Labrador||Sydney Hills Eagles||Sydney Hills Eagles||Sydney Hills Eagles|
|Morningside||Mt Gravatt||Mt Gravatt|