Chris ‘Yeendy’ Yeend
This is a massive season for the 2021 finalists and 2019 Grand finalists. Last season was one that started with great promise when it went down to Palm Beach Currumbin by two-points in the season-opener on the road, an opposition that was destined for a major tilt at the cup; leaving Dees supporters optimistic that they would be competitive in season 2022.
The season-opener was met with a disappointing loss at home to reigning 2021 Grand finalists Maroochydore and from that point on, it became a really tough and challenging season.
Injuries to key personnel and players called up to VFL were compounded by narrow losses to teams in the finals’ hunt that derailed the season prior to the mid-way point. Back-to-back wins in the middle of the year built some positive fortunes around the group.
A 129-point loss to Broadbeach in Round 5 without a win in the lead up to the contest sparked a more competitive performance in the following bout in Round 18 when they went down by 10 goals after being six goals down heading into the final change. Little victories like that, and signs of improvements helped contribute to a more competitive run in the back end of the season.
If there was one thing we definitely gathered in 2022 is that the drive to fight and finish the season off strongly was there and the back end of the season helped produce some positive outcomes to lead into this year.
A change of coach in the off-season has seen former Saint and Blue, Matthew Lappin take over the reigns in his first season as coach.
Lappin has more than 250 games of AFL experience under his belt and was an All-Australian player. He has experience as a playing assistant coach with the Northern Bullants, a line coach at Carlton in the AFL and an assistant coach with Collingwood. He has experience in the coaching space at Gold Coast and Southport and is very much across the lay-out of the QAFL competition and development of football in the area.
Lappin will be well supported by assistant coaches John Chenhall and Dean Odenwhan as the team look to play a more competitive brand of football.
Jack Yelland and Nick Hay are key outs for the team while the group expect young guns Ben Woodburn and Michael Luxton to really stand-out and thrive at Senior level. Look out for Tom Smith in the forward line as he is expected to explode this season.
Look out for Alex Mitchell up forward. He has strong hands, is great at ground level and is a team focused player.
Surfers Paradise enjoyed a positive start to it’s pre-season campaign with an impressive 27-point win over Broadbeach in early March. The pleasing thing about this performance, albeit a practice match, is that the game plan focused on using space around the ground a lot more.
Players were less hesitant to switch the play; and instead of manning up on players while the opposition tried to clear from the backline, there was a focus on guarding space. The transition from the backline to the forward line looked more polished than in previous years.
The take-over from Lappin in the off-season has already seen some positive results and it will most definitely see a major change from the team’s performance in 2022 and climb back up the ladder in 2023.
Fixture rating based on 2022 final Home and Away standings
8, 2, 9, 12, 4, 5, 8, 6, 1, 2, 10, 5, 6, 1, 4, 7, 11 = 101
The Demons have a pretty solid run across the season facing the top four just once, including reigning premiers Aspley in the final round of the home and away season.
The season opener against Palm Beach Currumbin will be massive for both teams and it would be hard pressed to get as close of a contest as we witnessed in the same fixture last year (PBC +2) but considering there has been some solid improvement from both teams in the off-season, we could very well get another exciting encounter.
Like in 2022, the middle half of the season will see the Demons have a more favourable draw with matches against Mt Gravatt and Sherwood. A run of five matches against teams that finished in the 6 to 12 range from 2022 in the lead up to the final game of the home and away season could give fans hope of a place in the finals.
The key for Surfers Paradise is to win at least one game in the opening month, and challenge in the other three. Doing so will provide a good launching pad for the remainder of the season. Pre-season form is sometimes tough to read, but the positive signs from the opening hit out against Broadbeach could very well suggest that this group will have what it takes to play finals this season.