2024 Bond University QAFLW Season Preview – UQ

By Hannah Davies

A mass exodus from the University of Queensland in 2023 caused the side to miss finals for the first time since becoming back-to-back premiers. Now they want back in.

Losing 23 players at the end of 2022, including eventual 2023 Emma Zielke Medallist Steph O’Brien, the Red Lionesses struggled early as they faced tough losses to impressive opposition.

With just two wins after 10 rounds, the competition had written them off. But head coach Ross Clayfield was able to light the spark once again and the side went on a four-game winning streak – including producing one of the season’s biggest upsets with a win over eventual grand finalists Aspley in their penultimate match. 

“We were pretty happy with how the 2023 season turned out,” Clayfield said.

“We turned it around, and the most pleasing part about last year was that we were sitting zero from three in the first three rounds, and it could have been easy for everyone to get a bit down but there was never any panic. 

“The leaders at the club are amazing, it was just a calm vibe and everyone wanted to work through the issues. We finished with lots of momentum, and we certainly want to take that into this year.”

A high turnover in players was one cause of last season’s rocky start, but this season the club has managed to keep a majority of its senior group.

Adding to this group is former Australian Diamonds and Queensland Firebirds netballer Gabi Simpson, who moves across to the sport after being delisted from the Firebirds at the end of the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball season. With elite fitness and standing at 176cm tall, the former wing defence will be a tenacious force in the midfield. The club have also signed fellow former Firebird Laura Clemesha, who, at 190cm, will give the Lionesses a potentially formidable target in the forward line.

The netball duo’s height will be much needed, with ruck Lucy Hicks unavailable for at least the first half of the season after undergoing surgery for her back in the preseason. Likely to step into that position will be fellow netballer Bridey Condren, who made her QAFLW debut in 2023.

Albeit cliché, Clayfield’s focus across the preseason has been on culture as he hopes to instil confidence in his team to take on the big moments.

“We’re working really hard to develop a team that’s really connected, but also one where people are feeling good individually so they feel comfortable to take risks and play without pressure or burden. 

“We’ve had big conversations around that stuff – we want to be playing on instinct and moving the ball bravely. The important thing is developing the mindset where they feel they can make those decisions.”


Key recruits 

Holly Cawthorn – Wilston Grange U17s, Lions Academy

Laura Clemesha – Former Queensland Firebirds netballer in whom Clayfield sees great potential. A defender on the netball court, Clayfield has Clemesha playing forward for something new. On her training effort so far, Clayfield said: “Ted Lasso would be proud”.

Coco Garton – Played with Coorparoo in 2023 and is also part of the Lions Academy. An exciting, tall young ruck.

Josii Hargreaves – Coorparoo recruit. Hard worker with a massive thirst to get better. Ex-SUNS Academy.

Paige Livingston – Greater Western Victoria Rebels

Anneliese Neary – Victoria Point U17s premiership player. Brisbane Lions train-on in 2023. 

Monique Piunti – Also comes across to Australian rules from netball. Has a great engine, great speed, incredible hands and is quickly developing skills and game sense. Will play on the wing or small forward. 

Gracie Roy – Played for Morningside in the QFAW Div 1 grand final last year, and has won the club Best and Fairest multiple times. Will play half back or midfield.

Annabel Shewring – Former UQ player (2015 – 2017) returns after a few years elsewhere.

Nickkie Shaw – Wests Juniors U17s

Gabi Simpson – Former Australian Diamonds and Queensland Firebirds netballer. “She’s got an elite level of sporting experience and we’re pretty excited about what she might produce,” Clayfield said.


Key outs

Ava Seton – VFLW (Port Melbourne) 

Brooke Sheridan – VFLW (North Melbourne)

Gracie Champion – Focussing on basketball 

Meagan Cook – Taking a year off

Kadie Fletcher – Wilston Grange 

Mia Teubler – Coorparoo


Player to watch

Lucy McCormick – The centre half-back comes into 2024 with fire in the belly. Overlooked in the Brisbane Lions Academy’s starting team, McCormick has been working hard over the offseason to bring her game to new heights.



“Coming in this year are the reigning premiers (Bond University), the runners up (Aspley), a very powerful Southport club, and we like to think UQ have developed a list that can challenge them on their best weeks. There’s no reason why we can’t be thinking about finals footy,” Clayfield said.



UQ’s greatest challenge will be when they come up against the power three – Aspley, Bond, and Southport – so strong wins against the rest of the competition will be imperative if they wish to make finals. On paper they have recruited well, but only time will tell whether their new faces – and elite netballer lineup – will adapt to their new club well. 

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