By Ant Wingard @AntWingard
Two late goals from Brisbane utility Dakota Davidson has handed the Lions a 16-point victory in the first QW Winter Series clash at Metricon Stadium against intrastate rivals Gold Coast.
Davidson, a product of the University of Queensland in the QAFLW, injected life into the game in the second half, kicking two crucial goals for the Lions to help seal the 2.3 (15) to 4.7 (31) win.
While not officially on Brisbane’s list for the upcoming AFL Women’s season, Davidson was one of five QAFLW players to line up for the Lions and her second-half performance ensured the Brisbane Lions coaching staff took notice.
“She’s been good, and she’s steadily gotten better in each of her three seasons with UQ in the QAFLW,” Lions coach Craig Starcevich told aflq.com.au.
“You can’t fault her endeavour. She really attacked the ball hard in the air. She got after opponents at ground level with a couple of big contests but importantly too she hit the scoreboard as well.
“She now gets the feeling that she belongs at the next level which is really good for her confidence.”
Davidson’s brace – both long bombs from just inside the 50 arc – cemented the Lions’ win but prior to her two minutes of brilliance at the goal face, it was the SUNS who looked far more likely to emerge victorious.
In what was the SUNS’ first competitive hit-out against an AFLW-calibre opponent since the player movement window shut last month, the Gold Coast side looked competition ready.
SUNS coach David Lake gave absolutely no expectations for the side in the team’s first game, but the coach received the best indication yet that they will be able to mix it with the more tenured sides next summer.
“As a coach and having a group together for the first time, I was pretty impressed with the respect they showed for each other and the way they worked gave me a lot to look forward to going forward,” Lake said.
“The message before the game is that you can’t make a mistake. I would expect whatever you did because I wanted them to just enjoy playing together.
“Putting any pressure on them wouldn’t do any good.”
As expected, it did take a while for the SUNS to gel as a collective in the contest given the side had only spent a total of 49 hours as a group prior to the first bounce – a result that was highlighted truly on the scoreboard.
Brisbane dominated inside 50s throughout the opening term as Shannon Campbell kicked the game’s opening quarter having been thrown forward by Craig Starcevich – a position she has more than made her own at QAFLW level.
Similarly, Jess Wuetschner’s move across half-back also paid dividends as the mercurial forward seemingly picked off any offensive movement from the SUNS.
Having struggled against the measured attack of the Lions in the opening term, the switch was flicked by the SUN early in the second.
Taylor Smith converted her opportunity to cut the lead and breathe life into the SUNS side who were desperate to prove themselves against the Lions.
The SUNS soon began to break even around the contest, largely through the contested ball work of Jacqui Yorston and Maddy Roberts in the midfield.
But while the SUNS willed their way on top in tight, the Lions continued to break the game open with damaging play on the outside.
Offseason recruit Rheanna Lugg wasted no time assimilating herself in the maroon as a driving force out wide while Queensland Under 18 talent Chloe Gregory too found plenty of space.
Taylor Smith brought the came back within arm’s reach for the SUNS after the three-quarter siren but Davidson’s two majors, along with another major early in the fourth term all but sealed the win for the Lions.
For Brisbane, halfbacks Nat Grider and Wuetschner were excellent in space while Emily Bates played as expected in the midfield.
For the SUNS, Jacqui Yorston was a bull in the midfield, helped by the dominant tap work of Lauren Bella in the ruck.
Brisbane Lions coach Craig Starcevich said while the win was nice, the team were able to tick off their two main objectives in the clash.
“The main thing for us is that we need opportunities for our current squad to play together as a group – that’s the main priority,” Starcevich said.
“The second priority is working our who we need to draft and they all did their job tonight.
“The academy players were fantastic and the QAFLW players were brilliant too. They all had patches where they really influenced the play.”
Game two of the QW Winter Series will take place next month on June 23 at Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay.
QW Winter Series Round 1 at Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast: 0.0 1.1 2.2 2.3 (15)
Brisbane: 1.3 1.3 3.3 4.7 (31)
Goals; Gold Coast – T. Smith 2. Brisbane – D. Davidson 2, S. Campbell 1, M. Findlay 1.
Best; Gold Coast – J. Yorston, M. Ritson, K. Surman, L. Bella, T. Smith. Brisbane – J. Weutschner, N. Grider, R. Lugg, E. Bates, L. Postlethwaite