By Ant Wingard
Gold Coast midfielder Jacqui Yorston has wasted no time igniting the battle of words between the SUNS and Brisbane ahead of the inaugural AFL Women’s QClash this Saturday.
Yorston, who played four games for the Lions last season before switching to the SUNS in the player movement period, was coy to drum up the theatrical side of the game but was candid about her switch from the river city to the glitter strip.
“I’m excited but I’m trying to think about it as any other game. I don’t want to think of it as a rivalry just yet because we haven’t played each other yet,” Yorston told aflq.com.au.
“QClash is always going to be special. It just depends how special it is.”
“If we win, it’s more special and if we lose it’s just another game of footy. That’s the mindset that both squads will have.”
This weekend will be the first time the two sides have squared off in the AFLW arena and with the Lions undefeated and the SUNS coming off an emphatic win over Richmond in Round 2, the importance of the contest is palpable.
Yorston was key in the win against Richmond too, forming part of a midfield unit that overran the Tigers’ unit and also snuck forward to kick the team’s go-ahead goal in the third term.
But this weekend presents a different challenge for Yorston as she faces her old side for the first time.
There will be ten players for the SUNS who had previously donned the Lions guernsey in years past, including Jamie Stanton, who spent the 2019 season with North Melbourne.
For Yorston though, the contest is quite different to those other nine teammates. While most were developed and fostered through the SUNS or reside on the Gold Coast, Yorston did not. A Kedron junior, she grew up in Brisbane’s north and is also a graduate of the Brisbane Lions Academy.
Yet despite her copious links to Brisbane city, the Lions and the Gabba, it is the Gold Coast were Yorston feels most at home – a motive she was more then happy to emphasise ahead of this weekend’s contest.
“Mark Evans [Gold Coast Chief Executive] is just as excited as the players that didn’t play on the weekend,” Yorston said of the side’s Round 2 win.
“That’s how close of a group we are. It’s unbelievable. I didn’t think it was possible with a football club.
“From the moment I came here, just to have a chat with [David] Lakey and Fi [McLarty] about what my options where, I felt like I belonged and I was welcomed.
“I can’t see myself playing for any other club.”
Yorston is bracing to cross paths with a number of her former teammates this weekend when the two teams converge at Metricon Stadium, but she is confident the young SUNS have what it takes to curb the fast-starting Lions.
Brisbane of course, are one of four undefeated teams remaining and the only lossless team in Conference A having dispatched both Adelaide and Geelong in strong fashion.
Their pair of wins have come via a fast-moving game plan and the potency of their forwards inside 50. In Round 2, Jesse Wardlaw kicked three goals for the Lions en route to a NAB AFLW Rising Star nomination while Dakota Davidson also continues to perform strongly in the air and a Goal of the Year nomination. If you can stop that, Yorston said, Gold Coast are in the box seat.
“We just have to shut down their key forwards and use our speed. We have the ability to shut down them and do that,” Yorston said.
That job would come down to the SUNS’ key pillars – Lauren Ahrens, Jade Preglj and Sam Virgo – who all enter the contest in considerable form themselves.
Regardless of how well the Lions forwards or the SUNS defenders perform, the first ever QClash – with both team playing exciting brands of football – promises a lot for both Queensland football and the wider scope of the AFLW season.
Gold Coast will host Brisbane this Saturday, February 22, at 4:10pm AEST at Metricon Stadium.
Tickets for the game are available here (link) with the match followed by the Marsh Community Series game between Gold Coast and Geelong.