By Daniel Viles
Maroochydore begins its sixth year in the Bond University QAFLW with realistic hopes of not only making it to a Grand Final, but even bringing the flag back to Fishermans Road.
One quarter separated the Roos from their first Grand Final in 2021, their 8-point three-quarter time lead in the Preliminary Final evaporated by Bond University’s four-goal onslaught.
For Steve Moody, now in his third year as Maroochydore coach, the loss was merely further evidence of his side’s willingness to compete.
“We pushed the footy out into the open a couple of times from stoppages which allowed Bond to get out into space and score, but one thing I know I can’t question from that Preliminary Final was the girls’ effort and that really is the only thing that we measure our players by.”
The effort and skill of the Sunshine Coast side was recognised in spectacular fashion at the end-of-season awards. Five Roos were named in the Bond University QAFLW Team of the Year – defenders Kelsee Sills and Rachel Crack; AFLW draftees Maggie Harmer and Jacqui Dupuy; and midfielder Chloe Gregory. In addition, Gregory and Dupuy finished first and second in the MVP Award, selected by the competition’s coaches.
“It’s easy as the coach to be able to recognise your own players’ strengths and what they bring to your group, but it’s not as obvious sometimes for people outside your footy club to see that, so I was really pleased for both girls that they were recognised by the other coaches.”
Moody is also hopeful that this season will relaunch the career of Lily Postlethwaite, drafted by the Brisbane Lions in 2019 but limited by ACL injuries to just 11 AFLW matches so far.
“Lily is going to be asked to play as much football as she possibly can, so she’s going to be a massive ‘in’ for us. Hopefully we can facilitate her transition back into the AFLW. She’ll be a real leader around our group, just really positive and a great person to have around.”
The likely absence of Dupuy and the departure of Grace Pearson-Smith means that the ruck position needs rebooting. Front-runners to fill that void are Abi Boutchard, who graduates from the Maroochydore junior program, and Kara Hennessy from Launceston who played for Tasmania Devils in last year’s NAB League Girls (Victorian under-19 competition).
That youth is likely to benefit from the experience and guidance of Mikayla Martin, who heads north after playing 66 matches for University of Queensland including its 2021 Grand Final victory.
Enthuses Moody, “I love what Mikayla has brought in terms of her intensity and also a bit of leadership. She’s training really, really well.”
Maroochydore’s other major recruits are winger Elli Aitken, also with NAB League Girls experience having played for the GWV Rebels in 2021, midfielder Bree Grentell who comes off seven premierships (including two as captain) in nine years with Glenmore Bulls in the AFL Capricornia competition, and triathlete Ella Wooldridge who is looking to test her elite fitness in a team environment.
QAFLW Premierships: nil
2021: Preliminary Finalists (10 wins, 6 losses, scored 101 goals, conceded 62 goals)
Coach: Steve Moody
Captain: Rachel Crack
Elli Aitken (Portland Tigers / GWV Rebels)
Abi Boutchard (Maroochydore juniors)
Bree Grentell (Glenmore Bulls)
Kara Hennessy (North Launceston / Tasmania Devils)
Mikayla Martin (UQ)
Ella Wooldridge (triathlon)
Bree McFarlane (Yamba)
Makeisha Muller (Coorparoo)
Grace Pearson-Smith (Moreton Bay)
THREE PLAYERS YOU SHOULD WATCH
After missing the 2020 season with work commitments, Sills’ combination of technically precise tackling, spatial awareness and speed across the grass won her a place in the 2021 Team of the Year. Writers can patronise small players by calling them tough and courageous purely by virtue of size, so instead I’ll mention that she played the last quarter and a half of last year’s Preliminary Final with a broken hand… without telling her coach until afterwards.
Moody says: “She’s a hunter of the ball and very calm under pressure; makes good decisions”.
The first time you see Gregory being knocked over sideways but still managing to land a 35-metre pass onto the chest of a teammate, you’re rather impressed. It’s still impressive when you see her do it for the twentieth time. Gregory is a precise passer, a clever ball distributer, and is not afraid to go into the contest when needed. Her midfield partnership with the more bang-crash style of Rachel Crack was perhaps the key element of Maroochydore’s success in 2021.
Moody says: “Our goal for her is to have another really good year of footy and, fingers crossed, she can put herself on the radar for being drafted.”
If you’re the kind of footy fan that loves aggressive full forwards, you’ll love watching Matheson. Her physical strength gives her an advantage in any contested marking duel, but she earns just as many shots on goal with her ability to harass defenders when the ball is loose. Her 16 goals, including four against Yeronga in Eximm Pride Round, made her the equal third highest goalscorer in the 2021 Bond University QAFLW.
Moody says: “She’s a very smart player. We let her own the inside-30 and she can cause a bit of damage.”
WHY YOU SHOULD GO SEE MAROOCHYDORE PLAY
Maroochydore has the most organised midfield in the Bond University QAFLW. Any time the ball is contested, Crack, Gregory and Bella Smith take about half a second to provide three corridors to exit. From here, the clearances can go wide to Jya Epstein or forward to Emma Day and Jazmin Tweddle-O’Donnell. When the midfield loses out, the Sills twins, Sara-Jane O’Grady and Kellie McPherson have the speed and strength to regain possession in the defensive third. If you’re a junior coach and you want to teach structure to your team, film Maroochydore.