By Ant Wingard @AntWingard
2017 was another standard season for Mt Gravatt in the QAFL. A fifth place finished followed the same theme as much of the recent competition history.
Despite making finals in three of the past four seasons, the Vultures have never finished higher than fourth in the QAFL as a genuine middle of the pack side who boasted unmitigated levels of unknowingness each week.
Their season ended prematurely in the finals after falling agonisingly short against southside rivals Morningside in the first week of finals.
Prior to that loss, Mt Gravatt, with true underdog status, carved out wins against Broadbeach, Morningside and eventual premiers Palm Beach Currumbin – teams all who finished above them at the end of the regular season.
The Vultures though failed to replicate their form against lower sides, with losses to the Western Magpies – twice, and Surfers Paradise, dampening their season.
A further three losses by 13-points or less, including their lone finals appearance paint a picture of what could have been for a side who could have accomplished far more.
In 2018 though, the Vultures have overseen biggest change in the competition over the offseason, with the appointment of a new head coach.
After serving as an assistant coach at NEAFL side Aspley along with stints in the Brisbane Lions and state talent program, Daniel Webster will take over the coaching box in 2017 in his first senior coaching foray at this level.
“The players have bought into the program really well and seem to be enjoying themselves. Everyone’s sort of ready for Round 1 now,” Webster told aflq.com.au.
“It’s been very good. The playing group is easy to deal with. The club has a lot of great people there who have been very accommodating, so it has been pretty seamless.”
And like a duck to water, Webster’s tenure at the club has begun in a characteristically smooth way. His first year at the club means a fresh slate for not only him, but for the playing group; something he is happy to build upon.
Hinting at a change in game plan, Webster has embraced the challenge of assimilating himself with his new surroundings.
“We have a clear structure in place and we’ve been trying to implement that.”
“There will be some teething issues as we get into the season. I think so far we’ve been pretty good about how we’ve bought into it, but we’ll see how it goes in the first few rounds of the year.”
“Everything is different. It should be pretty clear when people watch us how we like to attack and work around the contest. Organisation will be what people say about us.”
“I know the players want to win. I want to win and that’s our goal. We’re not here to finish fifth and fourth again – our goal is to win the competition and that’s what we’re working hard to do. Top one, that’d be nice,” he said with a wry smile.
“The first job has been player retention and to keep the list together. I think it’s a good list and a strong list. We were able to do a reasonable job of that.”
For Webster, his first senior coaching role has been a long time coming but having served his apprenticeship under some of the state’s best coaches, he, and Mt Gravatt are certainly ready to make their mark in 2018.
At Aspley, Webster coached under legendary coaching figure, John Blair, who steered Morningside and Aspley in the QAFL and NEAFL competitions to 20 finals campaigns in 21 seasons.
Through the talent programs, he resided beside Adrian Fletcher, AFL Queensland Academy and High-Performance Coach.
“You learn stuff off every coach,” Webster recounted.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be with guys like John and Adrian, in the state program. It’s been fantastic to pick up a few things.”
On the recruitment front, Mt Gravatt have been relatively quiet compared to their opponents, focusing more so on retaining the existing playing group from the temptations of elsewhere over introducing a bevy of new players to a settled core.
“That’s been the main focus,” Webster said.
“We’ve still had a number of guys come in which has been great. Rhys Estall [who returned following a stint in Victoria] generates a bit of excitement back at the club.”
Among their other inclusions are Jordan Bain – who has previously featured in over 50 NEAFL games for Redland.
The Vultures’ 2018 season kicks off with a home showdown against the Western Magpies for the third straight year.
Related: Surfers Paradise 2018 QAFL preview
Related: Morningside 2018 QAFL Preview
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