By Daniel Viles
Yeronga South Brisbane, the most successful current club in the history of the Bond University QAFLW, will begin its return to glory the same way that it got there in the first place – having established players mentor future stars.
While no club can match the Devils’ record of 121 victories across its 12 seasons in the QAFLW, only ten have come in the last two seasons, a consequence of having much of its top talent drafted to the AFLW, most notably Emily Bates, Jade Pregelj and Zimmorlei Farquharson, and of the competition finally catching up to the standards set at Leyshon Park during the 2010s.
However, new coach Lisa Milne, a Premiership winner with Coorparoo in 2014, has arrived at Yeronga with a clean slate and a willingness to base her game plan around the existing strengths of the squad.
“Some coaches fall into the trap of coming in with a game plan already set before they see what the playing group has. In my experience, that never works. Our game plan was an evolution and based on what we saw at training and when we did match sim. The biggest thing that we found is all of our most experienced players are going to be in our backline, so we’re going to be playing almost that rebound style of play. Think Richmond 2017 backline style of play, really trusting our halfback line to drive our attack.”
Those experienced defenders include QAFLW Grand Final winners Lucy Bellinger, Jess Matthews and Camilla Burnett, all of whom have, according to Milne, taken responsibility for bridging the gap between the large contingent of players nearing or past 30, and the equally large cohort of 16–20-year-olds with few players in between. Milne pays special tribute to another leader who has consciously reduced any ‘okay boomer’ factor in the squad.
“Jessie Baltus has really made an effort to get around everybody and not just talk to them and say hi at training, but really get to know the new players and make them feel welcome.”
One player likely to benefit from the available knowledge bank is Yeronga junior and key position prospect, Sophie Dunne.
“Sophie’s got a decent amount of height on her and this natural physicality to her game which is great to see, especially in someone that young. She’s got the leap; she’s got the hands. She’ll absolutely be able to fight for it both in the air and on the ground.”
Yeronga’s relationship with the junior program at Kenmore has brought the speedy and diminutive Stephanie Rosenthal to Leyshon Park. Rosenthal’s effort across the park in the trial against Southport, which included winning a free kick for incorrect disposal against Emma Zielke Medallist Selina Priest, drew favourable comparisons with the greatest ever Devil and sees her honoured by a new club ritual.
“Emily Bates, legend of the club, legend of the AFLW, she wore the number one. And we thought, ‘what could we do to make people feel like they’re wanted and connected to the history?’ So, each year, we’re going to give the number 1 jersey to the recruit who impressed us the most or embodied what it was like to be Emily Bates. ‘Big Steph’ is going to be wearing the number 1 this year.”
Milne has been around long enough to know that 2023 could be another tough year for Yeronga, but she has also had enough success to know how that is created. Spoiler: it’s not by focussing on wins and losses.
“The big messaging this year is we want to put in the best effort we can. Whatever our best effort is on the day, that’s what we want to leave out on the field. We want to look at each other afterwards and say, ‘I gave a hundred percent today for you’, and that’s what I care about.”
Coach: Lisa Milne
Captain: Lucy Bellinger
Home Ground: Leyshon Park
QAFLW Premierships: 2011; 2012; 2017; 2020
2022: 7th (3 wins, 11 losses; 31 goals scored, 81 goals conceded)
Briony Black (University of Queensland)
Emily Bleney (Mt Gravatt, QFAW)
Crystal Browne (Darwin Buffaloes, NT)
Georgia Cuffe (Mt Gravatt, QFAW)
Sophie Dunne (Yeronga juniors)
Stephanie Field (Mt Gravatt, QFAW)
Amy Golding (Kenmore juniors)
Kasey Holleran (Kedron, QFAW)
Farradai Hopkins (Mt Gravatt juniors)
Mieke Knight (Hermit Park, Townsville)
Teresa Lam (Noranda, WA)
Abigail Lunson (Kenmore juniors)
Charlotte Millen (Mt Gravatt juniors)
Holly Mills (Toowoomba)
Rhiannon Morgan-Williams (Coorparoo)
Emily Rogers (University of Queensland)
Stephanie Rosenthal (Kenmore juniors)
Tamika Smith (University of Queensland)
Ila Streeter (Yeronga juniors)
Bronte Walter (Bayswater, WA)
Lily Bougoure (Sherwood, QFAW)
Kathleen Mallyon (Sherwood, QFAW)
Grace Moodie (Bond University)
Jaida Tabb (Aspley)
Charlotte Taylor (Bond University)
Mia Walsh (retired)
THREE PLAYERS YOU SHOULD WATCH
Lucy Bellinger plays with grace: graceful in how her technique and vision allow her to look like she has more time than everyone else on the field; and gracious in how she conducts herself as a captain on and off the park. Bellinger arrived at Yeronga from Glenelg in 2020 as a forward but is now established in the halfback line, although she moved forward again for her 100th senior game last year and possibly could have kicked a bag had iiNergy Oval that day not consisted entirely of mud.
Milne says: “Lucy’s got a lot of experience, but I think her biggest strength is her ability to calm a line and help them remember what their job is out there.”
After finishing third in the 2021 QFAW Division 2 Central Best and Fairest, Ebony Milne (no relation to coach Lisa) made the seemingly large jump from Redland-Victoria Point to Bond University QAFLW look like a minor trip hazard. Circumstances required the Lions Academy and Queensland Under 18 representative to win much of her own ball last year, but she shone brightest when she could provide an exit point from the contest and then make space for herself to run and create, even against the best opponents.
Milne says: “There are a lot of players who are very ball hungry and not a lot of people who are natural outside midfielders. Ebony is definitely a natural outside mid.”
Moving to a club whose Premiership rucks include Jessy Keeffe and Rachael Anstey might intimidate some, but Poultney’s arrival in 2022 from the Darebin Falcons (VFLW) and Calder Cannons (Futures League) ensured that one of the Devils’ traditional strengths would continue uninterrupted. Like all good modern rucks, Poultney begins roving the moment her tap ruck is completed, giving Yeronga an option that is both tall and mobile. The Poultney to Goodwin tap is always a highlight of watching the red and blacks.
Milne says: “’Little Pepé’ has that very clean tap and that very skilful ruck craft. She reminds me of a smaller Craig Malone (Mount Gravatt QAFL ruck).”
WHY YOU SHOULD GO SEE YERONGA SOUTH BRISBANE PLAY:
This Yeronga side is going to develop a lot over the course of 2023. Yeronga has traditionally played a high defensive line and attacked by instinct. Milne has indicated that the Devils will defend deeper this year, thus providing a safety net for the young talent in front of them, guided by the likes of Madi Goodwin, Jamie Howell and Courtney McDonnell, to dance on the highwire. If the rookies start proving to themselves that they belong in the Bond University QAFLW, then the regular sausage sizzle at Yeronga’s clubhouse will be matched by plenty of sizzle on Leyshon Park itself.