By Daniel Viles
Coorparoo has opted for revolution rather than evolution as it seeks new ways to achieve the successes of old.
After five years under Michael Hewitt in which the Kings never missed the finals and won the 2019 Bond University QAFLW, new coach Rebecca Randazzo has shown no fear in making whatever changes she believes will best support the current cohort of players.
One example of the new thinking is Randazzo’s method of selecting and empowering the club’s leaders.
“It was a formal application process. We announced it on our Values Day at our first camp and presented our concept about what the leadership group would be. We received quite a lot of nominations and we’ve settled on ten (in the group).”
Most modern clubs expect their leaders to drive the culture of the club in addition to their on-field guidance. If you’re Bec Randazzo, you take that a step further.
“We’ve created what we call ‘buddy groups’. Every player has been assigned to a buddy group and a leader. Those leaders have been given a bit of a curriculum and some guidelines on how to use those buddy groups and what we want to achieve out of that.”
For those areas in which expertise is needed above what the players can provide for each other, Randazzo has enlisted professional support for both body and mind.
“New partnerships we’ve brought in this year are with a sports psychologist, Kat Mellon; we have a partnership with the Queensland Government Health and Wellbeing for nutrition; and the third one is a new partnership with QUT’s exercise and sports department where we are a registered practitioner site. We have three students working with us this year fulfilling their prac requirements and supporting the team.”
Lest this be viewed as a new coach looking to make her mark for the sake of it, Randazzo advises that the new structures were designed to best provide what the players told her they wanted.
“We went through an extensive exit interview process at the end of last year and identified our wishlist of where we think we can improve, and we started at the top of the list.”
Perhaps the greatest endorsement of the new program is that only three of last year’s regular QAFLW players are unavailable for the Kings in 2022, none of whom have transferred to other clubs.
Coorparoo’s forward line will continue to feature the pace and unpredictability of Macie Brown, JJ McLean and Chelsea Chesterfield. The key forward role vacated by Emma McKenzie is expected to be filled by Jenae Govan who scored 62 goals in three seasons (2017-19) before playing the last two years as an on-baller. Also watch for Lions Academy forwards Ruby Dry and Charlotte Howard to challenge for starting positions.
The Kings’ already impressive wing stocks have been enhanced by Makeisha Muller, who has moved down from Maroochydore; Amy Dwyer, who comes to Giffin Park after being named in the 2021 AFL Canberra Women’s Team of the Year; and Hannah Sexton, who won Premierships with Coorparoo in 2014 and 2015 and another with Coolangatta Tweed in 2016.
Down back, Ari Reilly will be hoping to continue the form that saw her not only named Coorparoo’s Best and Fairest in 2021 but also on the bench for the Bond University QAFLW Team of the Year.
There is one area where Randazzo has returned unapologetically to Coorparoo’s past. Midfielder and 2019 Premiership captain Sally Young returns to the top job and indeed to the top grade after work commitments saw her play solely in the Development League for the last two years.
QAFLW Premierships: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019
2021: Elimination Finalists (9 wins, 6 losses, 93 goals scored, 74 goals conceded)
Coach: Rebecca Randazzo
Captain: Sally Young
Ruby Dry (Mt Gravatt)
Amy Dwyer (Tuggeranong Valley, ACT)
Jasmine Fretwell (Jimboomba)
Charlotte Howard (Mt Gravatt)
Chloe Martin (Jimboomba)
Rebecca McCarthy (Ipswich)
Jo Miller (Redland-Victoria Point)
Makeisha Muller (Maroochydore)
Thyra Tavil (Coorparoo juniors)
Emma McKenzie (retired)
THREE PLAYERS YOU SHOULD WATCH
To see ‘Bluey’ at her best, watch her virtuoso performance in Coorparoo’s upset victory over University of Queensland in Round 4 of 2021. Blue’s 24 disposals featured several thumping clearances of over 40 metres, but don’t count how often she defused the UQ attack with a brutal bump, a tough tackle or an intelligent interception. The second half of Blue’s 2021 season was disrupted by injury and work commitments. Queensland audiences would love to see a full season of ‘Bluey’.
Randazzo says: “Probably had her best pre-season ever. She’s going to be dynamic.”
The great players in any sport seem to move more calmly than everyone else while making everything happen more quickly. Sally Young has that quality. Her left foot is precise and her physical strength means it takes a fair shove to unbalance her. You will know you’re watching someone special even if you don’t know that Young has played over 100 QAFLW matches, won three Grand Finals with Coorparoo (missing a fourth through injury), and was in the 2016 Team of the Year.
Randazzo says: “Sally’s game IQ is elite. I did a handstand when I found out she would be available for QAFLW.”
For the last two seasons, Govan has been one of the strongest and cleverest centres in the Bond University QAFLW, especially during the first half of last year. But before Govan was a strong and clever centre, she was a lively and prolific goalscorer with 34 majors in 2018. Tellingly, she was kept goalless in three consecutive Grand Finals; but this year, Govan returns to the forward line with greater skill, fitness and game-awareness than she had last time around.
Randazzo says: “Jenae’s decision-making with the ball has improved out of sight in the last two years.”
WHY YOU SHOULD GO SEE COORPAROO PLAY
Traditionally, Coorparoo has based its game on physical dominance to give space for the speed and skill to show. But la Rivoluzione di Randazzo has created new energy around the eastern suburbs. The players are talking differently from how they were this time last year. No club has rejigged its football program during the off-season as much as Coorparoo has, which may just produce a style of football that we haven’t seen from them before. Actually, that’s why you should go see Coorparoo play.