2024 Bond University QAFLW Season Preview – Southport

By Hannah Davies

It took just four years for the Southport Sharks to establish themselves as a powerhouse club in Queensland’s women’s football scene, but it could be a settling of these expectations that proves their greatest asset in 2024.

The 2023 preliminary finalists and 2022 grand finalists have retained a majority of their core group, coach Peter Doherty, and added a group of young up-and-comers to the mix, setting them up strong as Round 1 draws close.

It was already established that Southport understood how to win – going near undefeated in season 2023 – but now, and perhaps more importantly, they know how to lose. Their 40-32 preliminary final loss to Aspley was a tough blow for the side who missed few beats in the home-and-away season, but it taught them valuable lessons and may even ease some pressure off the club.

All eyes were on Southport in 2023, but this year, the competition is shaping up to be as close as ever.

“I’m a firm believer that the game doesn’t owe you anything, to say we were in some way entitled to a grand final is not accurate; we came up against two quality teams who outperformed us on their days,” second-year coach Doherty said.

“Our focus has been going back to the drawing board and looking at how we operate under pressure, and our personnel. We’ve had 30 to 35 changes to our list. We’ve had a real injection of youth, of some really quality players. Southport is a great launching club for those wanting to take the next step.”

Leigh Alder, Georgia Breward, Steph O’Brien, Maggie O’Connell, Selina Priest, Rianna Schipp, and Maddy Watt – to name just a few – will all return in 2024, solidifying a strong core lineup for the Sharks. Megan Hunt also returns to play after injury kept her out of last season. 2023 captain, Jess Malouf, has stepped away from the game to move into coaching, leaving Rianna Schipp to step up to the role with Steph O’Brien as her vice-captain.

Southport have also signed plenty of young, local talent, including several who will likely become AFLW Draftees in the coming years. 16-year-old Alannah Welsh is a Burleigh Bombers product who has been impressive during her SUNS Academy and Queensland games. Joining her is Surfers Paradise junior Sunny Lappin, who has grown up around elite football as the daughter of former Carlton and St Kilda AFL player, and coach of Surfers Paradise’s QAFL team, Matthew Lappin. Tweed Coolangatta’s Nakeisha Drew-Perkiss will also push for a senior debut early this year after having a strong pre-season.

Bringing in experience will be former Gold Coast SUNS player Kaylee Kimber, who made her AFLW debut in Season 7 but was placed on the inactive list in 2023 after sustaining a stress fracture in her foot, and Ebony Milne, a former Yeronga winger who shone in two frustrating seasons for the Devils.

“We wanted to continue to add speed and skill to the list,” Doherty said of his recruitment process.

“They were two really important requirements, and we think we’ve added that, particularly with Kaylee (Kimber), Dekota (Baron), and Siobhan (Ross). We’ve got a lot more aerial marking power and we feel like we’re maybe a bit more competitive in the air. Skill, ball movement and speed were some things we were keen to find in our recruits.”

After winning five games by over 80 points last season – with their highest margin 96 points – Doherty said working under pressure had been a focus of the preseason.

“We’ve done a lot of work around operating under pressure, and we invite that pressure and look forward to the challenge,” he said.

“It was disappointing (missing out on the grand final) but it’s important to note that more than half of that senior team has moved on to other endeavours, so that hasn’t been a focus this year.

“We want to be the best side we can be and hopefully with that we will be good enough come the end of the year.”


Key recruits

Dekota Baron – Gold Coast SUNS Academy

Nakeisha Drew-Perkiss – Gold Coast SUNS Academy and Tweed-Coolangatta U17s player. Has had a strong preseason and will push hard for a senior debut early in the season. Plays forward.

Maighan Fogas – Comes across from the Nightcliff Tigers in the NTFL WPL where she won her club Best and Fairest. Plays mid forward.

Alicia Gordon – Gold Coast SUNS Academy

Kaylee Kimber – Former Gold Coast SUNS player in 2022 and 2023, was placed on the inactive list in 2023 due to a stress fracture.

Sunny Lappin – Gold Coast SUNS Academy, Surfers Paradise junior

Ebony Milne – Brisbane Lions Academy, formerly with Yeronga. Plays half forward or on the wing.

Mikayla Nurse – Gold Coast SUNS Academy, Southport junior

Siobhan Ross – Gold Coast SUNS Academy

Emma Suckling – GWS Giants Academy player from Wagga Wagga. Plays mid forward.

Alannah Welsh – Gold Coast SUNS Academy, Burleigh junior

Kierra Zerafa – Northern Territory representative in the Coates Talent League, most recently played in the NTFL WPL for Waratah Football Club. Played a couple of QAFLW games (Wilston Grange) last year. Midfielder


Key outs

Poppy Boltz – AFLW (Brisbane Lions)

Kristi Harvey – relocated

Sarah Ingram – VFLW (Collingwood)

Lateesha Jeffrey – retired

Jess Malouf – moved into coaching

Lilly Pearce – VFLW (Collingwood)

Carly Remmos – VFLW (Collingwood)

Alessia Smythe – retired


Player to watch

Ebony Milne – “She has thrived in the program so far, and in our team, she’ll have a huge impact,” Doherty said.



“We just want to go contest to contest, we want to get better every session, every game, and where that takes us, the footy gods will work that out for us. It’s difficult to know where your opposition is, but I’m happy with the work the girls have done, the relationships they’re forming and how we’re coming together. Those are the sorts of things that are in our control,” Doherty said.



With Peter Doherty back for his second season as head coach, and some exciting new recruits, the Sharks will again be in the pecking order for their maiden QAFLW premiership. Coming in as finalists, and not grand finalists, should work in their favour as the pressure and expectation from the rest of the competition may drop and allow them to return to their processes.

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