by Daniel Viles

This was not supposed to be the Grand Final match-up.

Twelve months ago, Bond University limped out of the finals looking weary and ready to rebuild. Several stalwarts either retired or, believing their careers could go no further in Queensland, sought new challenges in Melbourne.

Aspley finished sixth for the second consecutive year and began a recruiting drive that would yield results long-term but surely need at least a year to gel.

Here’s how they did it. Firstly, they sought out the best coaches. Andy Lovell began as Bond’s Director of Football and QAFLW Head Coach in October. He wanted a side that was flexible and instinctive; the players responded. Luke Glacken was being courted by several clubs having coached the all-star midfield of two-time premiers University of Queensland. Aspley wanted Glacken’s combination of skill and ferocity and swiped right repeatedly until they got it.

Secondly, they gave youth a chance. The Hornets already had the contested marking brilliance of Rania Crozier and Lilu Hung, plus imposing centre Lucia Liessi returning from injury. The electric Jaimie Bryant and Louise Tyson were barely out of their teens but already had premiership medals at UQ and followed Glacken north. Rising Star nominee Holly O’Flaherty brought her pace from Grange. Hung was injured early in the year, but the others played major roles in 2023.

The Bull Sharks had invested years ago in relationships with junior clubs in their part of the Gold Coast; this year, their dividend was what may come to be regarded as the most talented generation of junior players ever to arrive at one club. Eight Bull Sharks played for Queensland Under 18s this year. Three of them, Tara Harrington from Broadbeach plus Havana Harris and Ava Usher from Burleigh, made their state league debuts in Round 1. Bond won by 98 points and the secret was out.

The third factor is the one mentioned the least: the core of experienced players who play a consistently high level of football, make factors 1 and 2 look amazing, and will provide the most intriguing individual contests.

You want a contested ball battle? The Courtneys, Bond’s Sexton and Aspley’s Daniec, will give you that for four quarters and probably 20 periods of extra-time as well. How about intelligent defenders who can read the game half an hour in advance? Leah Kaslar and Lucy Thompson have done that for a decade or more. Wide runners who open and close space at will? Charlotte Taylor and Emma Pittman have you covered – and then leave you clutching air. Predictably brilliant forwards? Lily Tarlinton and Jess Stallard. Unpredictably brilliant forwards? Rachael Vetter and Gabby Deller.

Everything an Aussie Rules fan wants in a Grand Final will be on show at Brighton Homes Arena on Sunday afternoon. The players’ prize could be a first ever premiership for their club. Your prize will be an afternoon marvelling at the brilliance of the Bond University QAFLW.

Daniel Viles will commentate his third Bond University QAFLW Grand Final on Sunday.



Our Supporters