By Ant Wingard
The Coolangatta Bluebirds are hoping to put the horror end to their 2018 Bond University QAFLW campaign behind them as the one-and-done finalists look toward a new season.
The Bluebirds lost the remaining five games of the season as they were defeated by the competition’s other three finalists, as well as Bond University, to round out the home and away season.
That result came after the side sat third in the competition following a Round 12 win over the Bullsharks, where they sat just one win out form the second-placed Coorparoo, who they also bettered in percentage.
The string of losses was severely induced by injury, which affected a sizeable chunk of the Bluebird’s playing list.
Despite that, Coolangatta still proved one of the competition’s bets teams and their early season form still saw them qualify for finals where they fell to University of Queensland in the semi-final.
And heading into 2019, not only are the Bluebirds ready, and capable, of responding but the team may have been better off in the long run according to Coolangatta head coach Matt Bedford.
“It was a tough stretch, but it was tougher just coping with all of the injuries that we copped. It really decimated our playing list. That was the hardest thing,” Bedford told aflq.com.au.
“We performed as well as we could under the circumstances and under the injuries that we were carrying, I was really proud of the way the girls finished the season off.
“We had girls playing that were ready to come through and we got some games into the girls who maybe wouldn’t have [gotten the opportunity].”
Bedford is also adamant the playing group is back healthy and ready to go ahead of the Bluebirds’ season opener against Maroochydore in a fortnight’s time as the side has remained intact over the summer.
Just two names from their semi-final side last August won’t line up in Coolangatta’s colours this year, with the side also benefitting from a number of key additions to the team.
Amy Fortescue, who averaged a goal per game last year in the AFL Northern Rivers competition, has joined the ranks, and offered versatility at either end of the ground or through the midfield.
Having played three games for the Bluebirds last year on a special permit during the Winter Series games, 17-year-old midfielder Ebony Peterson is a welcomed addition to the team and will partner with the experienced Maddy Roberts in the midfield.
But perhaps the biggest addition to the team is in the coaching box, as the Bluebirds have added Gold Coast SUNS Female Operations Coordinator Tracy Dean as an assistant coach, who will also coach Coolangatta’s QAFLW Development team.
“Her experience with the SUNS last year is really good for us,” Dean said.
Like most QAFLW teams who have been training persistently across the preseason in anticipation for Round 1, Bedford said he hoped the Bluebirds would be in the finals for what would be a fifth straight postseason appearance.
“On field, in an eight team competition, you’d like the think you’re in the finals,” he said.
“…But as long as we’re giving our very best effort, the rest will take care of itself I’d imagine.
“In terms of expectations, the Bluebirds will always be a place where everyone is welcome.”