After setting the AFLW world alight, many of the Brisbane Lions will be proudly returning to their Queensland community footy roots, where local clubs are waiting with open arms.
One such beneficiary of the homecoming superstars is the Coorparoo Kings, who has secured the services of four talented Lions for QWAFL season 2017.
Headlining the list is Brisbane captain Emma Zielke, a former three-time premiership player at Coorparoo.
“She’s going to bring back an enormous amount of experience to help our girls along,” said Coorparoo President Sam Haddad, speaking of Zielke.
In a testament to the Kings as a footballing destination, Lions defender Kate Deegan, tall midfielder Brittany Gibson and half forward Jessica Wuetschner will also be joining Zielke in the Coorparoo Kings jersey.
“We put an enormous amount of work, as a club, into the women’s space, ensuring that they had an elite environment to train (in), with the right coaches, the right support staff around them and I think that’s paying off,” said Haddad.
There is an embargo on AFLW players that prevents them playing till April 15, giving them time to recover before they again take to the field. When they come back it could change the shape of the QWAFL ladder dramatically.
Coorparoo are still in talks with players and may yet get even more Lions yet to join the Kings, establishing a threatening QWAFL side for 2017.
Most followers expect the standard of the Queensland women’s competitions to rise off the back of the Lions AFLW success, making for exciting games on the field.
Off the field though, is where the real action is happening.
According to Haddad, the effect the players have on the Coorparoo juniors will be just as important. Junior Roos can now expect to find the same Lions heroes they watched on TV, training at their football club in the same jumper.
“It gives them a sense of ‘we can do this.’”
“I don’t think these girls are going to understand how much they’ve done for Queensland football.
“Their success in this short time in this first season, has made women’s AFL in Queensland . . . it’s taken it to another level. All these girls want to play AFL, all these young girls that are growing up, like I said, it’s so real for them,” said the Coorparoo President.
While having AFLW players around the club provides a boost to the juniors, it doesn’t end there. Now that the AFLW has exploded in popularity, athletes from all sorts of backgrounds have their eye set on kicking the oval ball.
Former WNBL basketballer Emma McKenzie, will look to learn the game and suit up in Coorparoo colors for the upcoming season, joining dual sporting talents Brooke Spence and Mackenzie Arnold from the Brisbane Roar already on the Coorparoo list.
Interest in playing women’s footy has gone through the roof in Queensland with a number of clubs experiencing a noticeable growth in numbers.
“We’ve had over 50 new girls come to our football club, and in the last six weeks at a rate of about 2-4 every week,” said Haddad.
One player, Jessica Taylor, organizes her work in the mines around playing and training, flying in from Rockhampton just to play footy. It’s an incredible example of the commitment some of these players are willing to make to their football.
The AFLW season may be over, but for the next wave of talent things are just getting started. When these Lions walk through the door they might find the place is not quite the same as when they left it.
The Coorparoo Kings begin their 2017 campaign on the 8th of April against the Wilston Grange Gorillas, after the first round was rained out.
By Sean Melrose.