By Terry Wilson
PACIFIC Pines Power junior product Joel Baxter will not forget his maiden QAFL senior’s appearance for Labrador last weekend.
Thrust into Labrador’s top side against Sandgate at Cooke-Murphy Oval to cover for a major injury run, Baxter slotted a goal with his very first kick at QAFL level on his way to four majors before half-time.
The Tigers scored by 73 points to snap a losing streak then, to cap off a memorable debut, Baxter was subsequently named Round 8 Rising Star nominee.
“I guess it was an ideal debut in senior grade,” the 19-year-old Baxter told aflq.com.au.
“To get four goals up to half-time, to get a goal with my first kick and to have a win made it a great day.”
Baxter was last year’s Labrador Colts captain when he kicked 31 goals for the season as a forward and midfielder.
But he never got a crack at senior grade at a club that had won flags in 2015 and 2016 and finished runners-up in 2017.
“It was probably just my fitness levels really, trying to get up to the standards needed for senior footy,” Baxter said.
“My coach Aaron Shattock told me to work on a few things but the big one was on game fitness, being able to keep up with the speed and being able to run out the game.
“But I guess I was a bit lucky to get my name called out because there are so many injuries at the club right now.”
When the name of Baxter appeared at full-forward in Saturday’s selected team it caused some confusion in certain areas because one Josh Baxter, also a forward, played for the Tigers in the 2015/16 premiership victories.
Baxter (Joel) is now back with Southport in the NEAFL.
After his four first-half goals, young Joel did not kick another after Sandgate dropped players back to the defensive zone.
“I played a bit of a different role in the second half, kind of isolated one-on-one then I was moved up the ground later on,” Joel explained.
He was also called on for some help in the forward-line ruck duels.
Baxter played for Pacific Pines through his U8-U14 days then switched to Labrador as an under-14.
He played for the old Coast Coast Stingrays age-team and also represented the South Coast schools team.