AFTER passing the pub test in its inaugural year, Cross Conference matches return to Northern NSW this weekend.

The clashes that have the four AFL North Coast teams play against the four Northern Rivers teams involves some extra travel but according to AFL North Coast operations co-ordinator Paul Taylor, they're matches that are eagerly anticipated.

"Last season rbought the introduction of this format and the players, coaches, and club officials absolutely loved it," Taylor said.

"The quality of footy was fantastic, there was added intrigue in terms of new match-ups and big crowds turned out to every venue making it a real spectacle. This season will be no different.

"These matches are for competition points so we know that the teams will go hard at it all day."

The Northern Rivers teams shaded the contests last season, winning nine of the 16 matches and the local teams will be looking to restore some pride starting this afternoon.

The AFL North Coast teams have a slight head start having already played three tough rounds of competition footy while the northern league only started a week ago.

There'll be no matches played in Coffs Harbour this afternoon but the Coffs Coast teams will have their hands full on their road trips.

Hamish Bird from the Sawtell/Toormina Saints is about to run on to a hitout from teammate Bradley Collon against the Coffs Breakers. AFL North Coast 22 April 2017 Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park Photo: Brad Greenshields/Coffs Coast Advocate
ROAD TRIPS: Both Coffs Breakers and sawtell/Toormina are playing away games in the first round of cross conference matches this year. Brad Greenshields

The undefeated Coffs Breakers travel north to take on Ballina.

This will be a classic clash of styles with Breakers liking to play a high tempo running and passing game up against the Bombers who are a tough, uncompromising outfit.

Ballina finished runner-up up north last year so they certainly won't be easy beats.

The Breakers proved that they're capable of mixing it in the physical contests a fortnight ago and will be looking to their young stars to provide the run and carry once the inside ball has been won.

Sawtell-Toormina will be looking to bounce back from last week which was their first loss of the season.

The Saints will be looking for the return of key players such as Mark Couzens to boost them ahead of a road trip to Lismore where they take on the Swans.

Lismore were extremely competitive in the early part of last season due to the form of several young doctors who were in town on rotation. Sawtell will be hoping that the doctors aren't in the house today.

Last start winners, Grafton will be hoping to put consecutive wins together but face the toughest test of the round against Byron Bay.

The Magpies went through last year undefeated, including winning all four rounds of Cross Conference matches, and will be the team to beat again this season.

Grafton is building nicely and have more former premiership players getting ready to make a return, so will be keen to test themselves against Byron.

With the confidence gained from last week's victory, the Tigers may just catch Byron before they're match hardened and spring the surprise of the season.

AFL NORTH COAST
Cross Conference matches
Ballina v Coffs Breakers
Lismore v Sawtell/Toormina
Grafton v Byron Bay
Port Macquarie v Tweed Coast