2024 QAFL Season Preview – Labrador

By Chris ‘Yeendy’ Yeend

Football can be a cruel game sometimes and the Southern Tigers from Cooke-Murphy Oval certainly experienced that in 2023.

Labrador completed a rare hat-trick last season; one that it desperately would not want to have on its books when it had its season end to Broadbeach at home by five-points. In 2022 its season ended at the hands of Palm Beach Currumbin in week one of the finals and in 2021 it was denied a place in the Grand Final when it succumbed to Maroochydore in Preliminary Final at, you guessed it – at home.

One would hope that it doesn’t need to rely on beating Redland-Victoria Point in the final round of the home and away season in order to make the finals, a game that takes place at home.

There was a lot to like about the resilience of Labrador under Clint Watts who took over from Nick Malceski at the end of the 2022 season. With a young group at the helm, Watts and his team showed too much poise to take down eventual premiers Aspley at home by 19-points in Round 19 to spark life into their season. The result was made greater considering that the previous match between the pair had Aspley win by 15-goals.

While the Round 19 contest was the last win for Watts and his troops for the season; it provided an insight into just how capable the Southern Tigers can be, a team that is only going to get better.

Labrador will again be led by 2020 QAFL premiership coach Clint Watts. After leading the Panthers to the promise land, Watts moved from Morningside to Labrador at the end of the 2022 season. His playing record speaks for itself – six-time premiership player for Southport across 164 games, numerous best afield awards and State representative. Few people know the QAFL better than him.

Watts has added some quality experience behind the scenes with Chris Rourke joining the football department. Rourke recently coached Noosa in its first season in the QAFL including its first finals appearance back in 2022. He had almost two decades of experience with AFL in the ACT and was one of the most sought-after coaches on the East Coast when he made the decision to relocate to Noosa prior to COVID.

If one was a Labrador supporter, to have two of the best football minds on the East Coast at the same club working together, should have tongues wagging.

RHYS NICHOLLS – returns home to Labrador after spending several seasons with Gold Coast in the AFL and the past season with West Adelaide in the SANFL. He plays well in defence and works hard on the wing.
AIDEN FYFE – a product of the Gold Coast Academy and former Suns Rookie-listed player, this 190cm wingman returns home to the Southern Tigers and will be a powerhouse performer. He played for Southport in the 2022 VFL decider and spent last season with Port Melbourne. He has 35 games of VFL experience under his belt.
JAY FOON – will play with the club full-time after several seasons in the VFL program with Southport. The former North Launceston product will inject more speed into the team on a more consistent basis.
TOM MILLER – spent time with Southport in the VFL but will look to play more consistently with the club this season.

Bailey Brown – “He is a winger who runs non-stop, plays both sides of his body and can hit the scoreboard,” – Clint Watts

NATHAN ‘Tex’ WRIGHT – “He is a hybrid forward who is good on the lead and can cause issues for the opposition up and around the ball,” – Clint Watts

TOM SIMPSON – “No-one has trained harder this off-season. He is a seven-day-a-week-footballer who is ready for a massive 2024,” – Clint Watts

“We missed the finals by a kick in 2023. We have added experience to a young group, and aim to play finals,” – Clint Watts

The much-anticipated clash against Morningside will be massive. Watts returns to his former home at Jack Esplen Oval for the first time since departing the Panthers at the end of 2022.

Labrador plays nine games against the 2023 finalists with three of its last four matches against the 2023 Grand Finalists Aspley and Redland Victoria Point, and Palm Beach Currumbin. The first six weeks will be interesting with matches against Surfers Paradise, Aspley and Broadbeach who all played finals; however, two of those teams have new coaches and will be trying to get an indication of where they are at in their first month in the role which could make things interesting.

When you’re adding to your list rather than departures in the offseason, you know you’re in for a good showing. Four players return home to the club to play regular Senior football to add to an already impressive young list.

One can does not discount Harry Law who also spent time at Southport in 2023 and he will be better for another strong off-season and see more football in his direction up forward with a quality midfield setup.

A strong Labrador outfit is great for the QAFL and with Watts and Rourke working together; we’ll see an exciting season from this club that will roar its way back into the finals

Our Supporters