2024 QAFL Season Preview – Aspley

By Chris ‘Yeendy’ Yeend


We are in the midst of a golden era for the Aspley Football Club. Since crossing from the VFL to the QAFL for the 2022 season, this group has taken on all challenges to secure the past two QAFL Senior premierships.

The 2022 premiership win was a fairytale story that will be talked about for decades to come. Aspley took on the undefeated and all-conquering reigning premiers Broadbeach in the decider and won.

This group became the hunted in 2023 with every club wanting to defeat them. It is harder to defend a title than to win it and under coach Dan Webster, this group not only defended the title, it was almost bulletproof for the entire season and played as though it was still trying to win the 2022 season premiership; except it played like that for each game.

Winning two premierships is something special, but winning three is something extraordinary. How hard is it to keep players motivated and looking to improve; while the opposition develops new strategies to get fitter, stronger, and quicker in the quest to knock down the empire that an all-conquering team has set out to achieve?

A new leader is at the helm, a new voice to lead the charge, but there is one thing that can be guaranteed and that’s if Aspley do play off in the big dance, again – it’s that Liam Dawson will take more than 20 marks and win the best afield medal for the third year running.


A new face will lead Aspley in 2024 with Adrian Pilgrim taking on the role of Senior coach. Pilgrim was an assistant coach (midfield) for both 2022 and 2023 Senior QAFL premierships. He held the role of Assistant (midfield) coach for the 2023 QAFL State team that travelled to Tasmania.

To add more depth to his experience, Pilgrim was an assistant coach at Coburg in the VFL and at the Western Jets in the NAB/Coates League. He has previously coached Tatyoon to a Senior premiership in Victoria.

Pilgrim takes over from dual Senior premiership coach Daniel Webster who, in the off-season, was appointed as head coach of Hawthorn in the AFLW. Webster combined his coaching duties with Aspley with his duties as an assistant coach for Brisbane’s AFLW team under Craig Starcevich, a team that tasted premiership success in 2023.

Webster celebrated two premierships as a coach in less than 12 weeks, an extraordinary feat.


Previously from Port Melbourne (VFL) and Chelsea Heights in the prestigious Southern Football League, the left-footer joins the team as an inside midfielder and half-forward.

“He is strong in the contest and in his attack on the ball” – Pilgrim says.

JOEL LEAHY – The Mt Gravatt junior had a break-out season for the Vultures in 2023 where he accumulated lots of the football and put the competition on notice. He kicked 13 goals across 17 games and was unstoppable in most matches that to the surprise of no-one, had him win a place in the 2023 QAFL Team of the Year and also take out the club best and fairest award.

“Joel is a midfielder with great balance, speed, and agility, and he can get to the outside and uses the ball well,” Pilgrim says.

JACK MAHON – Played at Hinterland last year and represented South East Queensland. He previously played in the Eastern Football League for Doncaster along with stints in the VFL at Port Melbourne, Northern Blues, and Frankston. He is a strong-bodied inside midfielder / half forward.

DAINE MACDONALD – Crosses over from Mt Gravatt and will be used in a variety of roles.

LUKE SAUNDERS – A half-back with a strong left foot. Played for Wangaratta in its Ovens and Murray Football League premiership win over Yarrawonga in 2022 in a game where he was one of the best players on the ground. He played in the team that went down in the 2023 Preliminary Final to Albury.

RAY HILL – Formerly from Hinterland and represented South East Queensland. Won the QFA league-leading goal kicking award with 50 goals.


REECE TOYE – Retired



JONO FREEMAN – Returned to Noosa

JORDAN HAYDEN – Returned to Tasmania where he will play for Glenorchy

MICHAEL BEST – Returned home to Victoria to play for Inverleigh



“He has been promoted to the leadership group in 2024. Lleyton is a competitive defender that can close down opposition dangerous forwards and still get involved in offensive transitions,” Pilgrim says.


JASPER CRAVEN – finished third in the club’s best and fairest in 2023 and can break the game open.



Coen Harker in the midfield and Connor Stackleberg in the forward line.


“We want to keep improving as individuals and collectively. We need to create opportunities for our group to challenge themselves and each other to continually raise the performance bar,” Pilgrim says.  


The Hornets play each of the five other finalists twice this season. Fans will already be set for blockbuster matches with home games against Broadbeach and Redland Victoria Point to start the season while hosting red-hot Wilston Grange in the fifth round.

Six of the first seven games will be challenging for Pilgrim and his team with the Round Six clash on the road to Labrador a key one of note where the corresponding fixture between the pair had the Hornets stumble.

A bye in Round 17 will be interesting as it faces Wilston Grange and Palm Beach Currumbin to close out the home and away season. Should it finish on top, it will have the week off before heading into a clash to advance to the decider and victory there will see another week off before the Grand Final for a total of three games in six weeks.

We won’t get ahead of ourselves, but it could be a key factor come the end of the season.



A new coach at the helm but one who has been there for the premiership years, there is no reason why we can’t see a hat-trick of premierships at Graham Road at the end of the QAFL season.

Losing six premiership players hurts, especially the experience and leadership of Nelis. The upside is the six quality players joining the team. Leahy and MacDonald had stellar seasons for Mt Gravatt in 2023, Saunders has played in successful teams, Mahon and Hill have been dynamic for a power-house Hinterland team while Cody Stackleberg will be outstanding.

These six won’t cover the losses of the departed six; but they will add a freshness and hunger to this outfit to help drive the quest for a third successive flag.

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