By Ant Wingard @AntWingard
Labrador fell agonisingly short in 2017 after blitzing the competition through the home and away season.
The Tigers went undefeated through the 18-game fixture before falling emphatically in the Grand Final to coastal rivals Palm Beach Currumbin.
The loss footnoted a sour end to an otherwise successful campaign where the team ranked first for points scores and conceded the fewest points of any team.
In fact, Labrador’s defensive juggernaut allowed fewer points throughout the year than any Grand Final team in modern QAFL history.
From Rounds 5-11, the Tigers failed to drop below triple figures on the scoreboard, averaging 116.8 points in the six-game stretch and an averaging winning margin of 46-points.
The stretch produced Labrador’s best form throughout the year which included their biggest win over Palm Beach Currumbin.
Their finals tenure hit a roadblock early as Labrador produced just 21-points against Palm Beach Currumbin in the Semi Final before a return to form with a convincing win over Broadbeach booked their ticket to the big dance; however the Lions now had their measure and a 53-point loss ensued.
Labrador head coach Aaron Shattock has now had a full summer to reflect on what could have been, but the former Brisbane Lion is adamant he and his side have moved on quickly.
“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been thinking about it,” Shattock told aflq.com.au.
“You move on pretty quickly when you have a loss like that. You try and get it out of your mind pretty good.”
“Fortunately for us, we got back into training pretty early and haven’t really thought about it much.”
The Tigers’ grand final appearance was their fourth in as many years as the team has established themselves as the competition’s perennial juggernaut.
But for Shattock’s side, expectations on 2018 have remained relatively calm, despite the team’s prolonged success.
“We’re like any team and our aim first and foremost is to win enough games to qualify for finals.”
“Obviously playing in the last four grand finals the club has got high expectations. From our perspective from playing and coaching, winning the premiership is the main goal.”
In 2017, Labrador’s two losses to Palm Beach Currumbin were their only real sour notes of the season, but an issue the team has aimed to address over the preseason.
Shattock claimed the side’s last month of the season, which included the pair of losses; both in finals, was due to the team fading in games.
“There’s a big emphasis on running this year. Last year we sort of faded out quite badly. Fitness has been a big thing for us certainly,” he said.
“It’s been long. It’s been a really late start to the year, so it’s been a challenge to keep everyone interested, so the boys are really raring to go.”
The club’s success in the QAFL competition – a result of both a talented core of players and tactical coaching by Shattock and his team, has resulted in a quiet recruitment period.
In a way, Labrador are perhaps the benchmark of the league and as such, haven’t felt the need to recruit a large number of players to bolster their chances in 2018.
“Last year we weren’t too far off, so we haven’t had to really bring anyone in,” Shattock said.
Although the club downplayed their recruitment, there will be some new faces at Tigerland this year.
Jarryd Graham (North Ballarat/Townsville), John Pratt (South Australia) and Alexander Ford (North Footscray) headline an injection of experience into the side that will also be bolstered by Southport young guns Terry Giacoumis & Anthony Djurovitch.
With the QAFL season set to kick off this weekend, April 21, in the lead up, Labrador may be the most settled roster in the competition.
Such little player movement on an already tight group of players means Shattock and the Tigers’ coaching staff haven’t had to change their winning formula over the offseason.
“Obviously from our point of view, we didn’t get too much wrong last year, so there’s only a little tinkering with the new personnel.”
“We’ll definitely try and kick more points than the opposition this year,” Shattock laughed.
Labrador’s season kicks off against Surfers Paradise in a Round 1 Sunday matchup – a team which they beat twice, by 75 and 26-points.
In Round 2, the Tigers will get their chance to avenge their grand final collapse against Palm Beach Currumbin in front of a raucous away crowd.