How will UQ go as the new kids on the block in the Allied Pickfords Cup?
The UQ Red Lions are under no illusions ahead of their first year in the Allied Pickfords Cup.
After consecutive grand finals in Division Two, senior coach Matthew Stewart said the club knew its Div 1 debut would be a major learning curve, but his focus would be on improvement rather than ladder position this season.
Stewart, who was the Red Lions’ captain last year, said the strength of the club, which has almost doubled in size this season, was its camaraderie.
Having played for UQ since 2005, Stewart knows exactly how strong the ties are between all thos involved with the club.
“When I first moved up from Melbourne, I was just looking for a club to have a kick at, but I soon realised this club had something special about it,” Stewart said.
“It’s a very hard club to leave because of the people.”
UQ had a tough initiation into Queensland’s premier community competition, on the end of a 101-point defeat at the hands of last year’s premiers, Western Magpies.
The Red Lions have shown improvement since, with good showings against Mayne on March 23, and Wilston Grange on April 6.
In both of these matches, UQ lost by approximately six goals, but showed plenty of positive signs.
Stewart said the side’s practice match form simply reinforced the need for improvement in every area of the game, something the playing group was prepared to do.
“We’ll be looking to improve in all the fundamental areas,” he said.
“It’s about making sure our defence is good, our skills and execution are good and then it’s just a matter of week by week reassessing and seeing where we’re deficient and where we’re strong.”
Stewart said he knew moving up a division would not be a walk in the park, but the players were prepared for the challenges that would come with being held to a higher standard.
“That’s [tougher opposition] part of the deal. We’re really looking forward to that challenge,” Stewart said.
“We’re really excited about testing ourselves against people that are better than us and then improving through the year.”
Within the playing group, Stewart said it was the younger set that really showed their ambition in the pre-season.
“Our young boys are a big strength for us,” he said.
“They haven’t missed a training session.
“They’re the fittest, they’re the fastest, they’ve probably got the best skills and they’ve got an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm.”
The Red Lions have no shortage of young talent with four UQ scholarship players on their list, including three Lions Academy players in Jordan McDonald, Zac Southern and Lewis Radford.
Red Lions fans might not see too much of Radford, Brisbane Grammar School captain last year, this season after his selection in the Queensland under-18 squad last week.
Stewart said his knowledge of the playing group, both on and off the field, whelp his transition into the senior role, despite being appointed only a month out from the season opener.
“I’ve played here for eight years. Obviously being captain last year, I’ve had a lot to do with the players,” he said.
“So, I’ve got a bit of understanding of all the players and who they are, so it certainly helps.”
UQ plays its first Allied Pickfords Cup game on April 20 against Maroochydore at UQ.
For the full fixture, click here.
UQ Ins 2013