By Daniel Viles
A renewed emphasis on attack will be the key to Aspley building on its breakthrough 2021 season and pushing for an inaugural finals appearance in the 2022 Bond University QAFLW.
After enduring a winless 2020, Aspley upset Coorparoo, dismantled Coolangatta and overcame Wilston Grange to be top of the table after three rounds in 2021. But with only one win thereafter, coach John Taylor begins his second year believing the key to success is greater intelligence in front of goal.
To that end, the Hornets have recruited premiership forward Rachael Vetter from University of Queensland and last year’s Bond University QAFLW Rising Star Abby Hewett from Wilston Grange.
“We’ve got a lot of smart players up forward. Michaela Campbell is always a good target. The girls know if it’s going to her, she’ll either mark it or bring it to ground. Abby Hewett’s very good at crumbing, Vetter’s very good at getting space, and Courtney Daniec is just everywhere in the forward line. We just think we’re a little bit smarter up forward this year.”
One option for the key centre half-forward position is Lucy Pengelly who has been added to the Brisbane Lions train-on list and is already showing the benefits of that experience.
“Lucy played centre half-forward in our first practice match and has really started to come out of her shell. She’s got a good tank so she can do a lot of running.”
The emphasis on attack should benefit the defenders, such as Holly Monaghan who was awarded an interchange position in the Bond University QAFLW Team of the Year.
“Holly does her job every game. When we have the pressure coming from the forward line and the midfield, she’s a very good reader of the play and that’s when she takes her intercept marks.”
While it may be tempting to see Aspley’s 2021 season as evidence that the slate had been wiped clean at Graham Road, Taylor believes he spotted the team’s potential during the darkness of the previous year.
“When I took over, I sat down with the leaders and actually congratulated them on their year. Even though it was horrible, and they didn’t win a game, what they created was resilience, determination, and they kept turning up and having a crack. That’s the foundation of any good side.”
This culture proved ideal for developing an exciting fleet of teenage players. Phoebe Baird, Bree McKenzie, Charlotte Mullins and Ella Smith mostly played in wide positions during 2021, but each showed the versatility to play forward or back depending on the team’s needs. Similarly, Izzy Kotatis and Lucia Liessi played more centrally but also demonstrated their ability to play in front of, on or behind the ball.
Added to that group in 2022 is Lions Academy defender and former Wilston Grange U17 captain Lilu Hung who performed strongly in the Academy match against the Suns in February.
The on-field guidance for these younger players will be provided not only by the likes of Daniec, Ange Lingard and Ashleigh Williamson (nee Hales), but also by the experienced Laura David who moves across from Yeronga after previous stints at Wilston Grange and Zillmere.
Rounding out the recruits for the Hornets are Elise McNiven who returns from a knee injury after last playing for Kedron juniors, and Kirra Johns from the Kingborough Tigers in Hobart.
QAFLW Premierships: nil
2021: 6th (4 wins, 10 losses, scored 55 goals, conceded 84 goals)
Coach: John Taylor
Laura David (Yeronga)
Abby Hewett (Wilston Grange)
Lilu Hung (Wilston Grange juniors)
Kirra Johns (Kingborough, Tas)
Elise McNiven (Kedron juniors)
Rachel Vetter (University of Qld)
Kadie Fletcher (University of Qld)
Melissa McPhee (retired)
Eloise O’Connor (Casey Demons)
Alanna Perry (unavailable)
THREE PLAYERS YOU SHOULD WATCH
Is she a forward? A midfielder? A defender? Does she teleport herself? Lanigan isn’t the quickest or strongest player, but she has a preternatural ability to turn up where the ball is. Combine that with strong tackling and excellent vision, and you have a player that adds a lot of value to the Hornets.
Taylor says: “She’s just a very smart footballer, very clean, rarely misses a target.”
A photo of Lingard playing last year’s final round in brown and gold facepaint received national attention, but she deserves to be known for how well she uses her height and strength. Lingard began 2021 on the ball and finished it playing ruck but looks to have the fortitude and marking ability to make a success of a key position role.
Taylor says: “Ange is very dynamic, obviously she can tackle, she’s aggressive, but watch this space because I think there’s a lot more to her.”
In the first two rounds of 2021, Wilston Grange’s Ruby Svarc had shown the pace that would win her the AFLW Grand Final Sprint and the skills that showed why the Lions had drafted her. In Round 3, 16-year-old Bree McKenzie shut her out of the game. In Round 9, McKenzie was the best winger on the park as the Hornets almost upset Bond University. Yes, McKenzie is quick, but she has also shown that her brain works at pace.
Taylor says: “She tackles, she takes these marks that you think she’ll never take, she never stops running, she’s just never-say-die.”
WHY YOU SHOULD GO SEE ASPLEY PLAY
Aspley likes to surge. Any time they get the ball deep in defence, the players have the freedom to take the game on, support in numbers and counter-attack rapidly. Several Hornets goals last year were coast-to-coast efforts, sometimes from turnovers, sometimes from kick-ins, but all featured quick disposals, hitting targets, and blistering speed. If the Hornets produce that more often in 2022, you’ll want to be there to see it. Remember that, in the wild, it’s the female hornets who sting.