QWAFL Grand Final Preview: Coolangatta vs Coorparoo
Saturday September 26, 4:30pm Leyshon Park
LIVE BLOG from 4:20pm
The last Saturday in September, it’s what every player laces the boots up for.
And after 161 days, 59 games and 21 rounds of the best female football in the state, Coolangatta and Coorparoo are fittingly the last two standing.
TALE OF THE TAPE: The two-time defending champion versus the new kid on the block. On paper, it reads like a Hollywood script and if their last meeting is anything to go by, this one should be an absolute blockbuster.
Coorparoo are on the verge of a three-peat. The Navy Roos have dominated female footy in Queensland for the best part of three seasons now, and a win on Saturday would secure a third straight flag for the club and a place in football history. As many expected, Coorparoo were again dominate in 2015, finishing the season with a sublime 15-1 record. A loss in the qualifying final to Coolangatta was a shock to the system for the Navy Roos, but they bounced back in style last weekend, dominating Yeronga to earn their spot in the big one.
Coolangatta have been the big mover and shaker of 2015. The Bluebirds finished out of the finals with just four wins in 2014, but thanks to some excellent recruiting and new coach at the helm, Coolangatta have soared this season. The Bluebirds finished 2015 with a handsome 12-4 record and have proved to be a huge threat to take all the chocolates this year by scoring a huge victory against Coorparoo two weeks ago..
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The ledger is square at 2-2 after four meetings between these two sides in 2015 and it’s only fitting that the grand final will decide which club is truly superior. In round 1, the Bluebirds sent a message to the entire competition, defeating the defending premiers by 34-points in a mostly one-sided affair at Len Peak Oval. In round 9, the two clubs clashed again in what many considered the game of the season, a 2-point thriller at Giffin Park which featured a 17-point comeback from the Navy Roos. In round 15, Coolangatta and Coorparoo clashed for the final time in the regular season, but a depleted Bluebirds outfit looked a step slow and eventually went down by 32-points. And finally, in the qualifying final just a fortnight ago, Coolangatta pulled off an intense 4-point victory to secure a 2015 grand final berth. The Navy Roos were 26-points down five minutes into the final quarter of that clash and nearly pulled off another huge comeback against the Bluebirds, but it was too little too late. From the four meetings we have seen this season, we can expect this game to be fast paced, high intensity and as close as they come.
KEY PLAYERS: With upwards of 10 state players lining up on the weekend, the talent on display this Saturday will be nothing short of first-class. For Coorparoo, you can’t look past their captain, Emma Zielke, who just claimed back-to-back QWAFL Best and Fairest honours this past week. The 27-year old was taken at pick 7 by the Western Bulldogs in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft and has continued to grow leaps and bounds as a player, doing damage in the midfield and up forward. Zielke has bagged 26 majors this season as well as a huge share of possessions in the guts, if she gets going it will be very hard to stop her. Hannah Sexton has been electric on the wing for the Navy Roos this season, and if Coorparoo want an edge on Saturday then they have to look no further than Sexton. The 19-year old has carved teams up with her run and carry this season and has chipped in 18-goals to boot. If she is let off the chain, the game will be broken wide open. Mackenzie Arnold is Coorparoo’s number 1 option in front of goal for a reason after booting home 44-goals in 11 games this season. Having kicked five bags this season, including a haul of 11 against Griffith Moorooka, their is no doubt that if you give this girl space, she will punish you.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest game changer on Coolangatta’s list is Leah Kaslar. The Bluebirds captain has been nothing short of sensational this season, finishing 3rd in the QWAFL Best and Fairest during the week. Kaslar is an absolute weapon out of the midfield, her contested ball work is second to none and she will make the Navy Roos fight every inch on Saturday. At 37-years old, Teena McIlveen will be the oldest player lacing up the boots on Saturday, but with age comes experience. The seasoned Bluebird has only played 12-games in 2015, but her athleticism is incredible, if she can get running it will be a problem for Coorparoo. Maddy Roberts could be a real game changer on the weekend, the wiry forward has been great around the stoppages this season and has proved to be a handy goal option outside of Lowe and Adamson.
HOW THE BLUEBIRDS CAN WIN IT: Run. Coorparoo might still be the best side in the competition, but Coolangatta are definitely the best running side. The Bluebirds have an extremely athletic squad with an engine that won’t quit; with or without the ball. If they are allowed to run free, they are a huge chance.
HOW THE NAVY ROOS CAN WIN IT: Quick entries. Coorparoo love to move the footy quick and one of their best attributes as a team is moving the ball quickly from the guts into the forward line. They didn’t do it against the Bluebirds last time, but when they are able to pump the ball inside fifty, they do a great job of locking it in and getting a score. That will be their key to success on Saturday.
FINAL WORD: Both sides could legitimately win this game. Coolangatta did an excellent job two weeks ago pressuring the Navy Roos into mistakes and if they can keep that up this weekend there is no reason why the Bluebirds can’t win. Coorparoo are the defending premiers for a reason however and we know they have all the tools at their disposal to get the job done. This one is seriously too close to call. Expect a low scoring, tight and intense decider for all the marbles.
Coach’s & Experts thoughts
Aaron Russell – Coolangatta
“There will definitely be nerves again, a lot of players haven’t played finals games before but they handled the pressure really well two weeks ago and I don’t see the reason why they can’t do it again.
“The week off especially at this time of year was pretty invaluable, it served us well heading into finals and it has definitely freshened up the squad this week as well.
“We just need to focus on controlling the game and playing the game on our terms, we play a style that Coorparoo don’t like, so we just have to focus on playing freely and to our plan.
“An opportunity like a grand final only comes around once a year so I want the girls to go out there and enjoy the moment, stick with each other and soak it up.”
Sally Young – Coorparoo
“We know that our best footy can do the job, we have been specifically training this week to maximise our run and carry, make quick turns in defence and apply a lot of forward pressure.
“I guess that loss we had against them two weeks ago really motivated us and made us realise how much we wanted to be in a grand final, now that we are here we just have to finish the job.
“The first quarter will be key, that quarter really is how you handle the pressure, it will probably be a low scoring game, so we just have to hold them out and keep on top.
“Part of the fun of a grand final is feeling emotions, the lead up and first few minutes you are out there is surreal, but after that first two minutes everything changes and we have to be ready to play footy and not get caught up in everything.”
Craig Starcevich – Female High Performance Manager
“I reckon we are in for another close one, a couple of injuries to Cooly doesn’t help, especially Beth Pinchin, but the stats are pretty even and I think it will be tight.
“Whoever gets out and runs the most I think wins it, that is Cooly’s great strength and whenever Coorparoo run and get the footy forward they are most damaging.
“I reckon McIlveen from Cooly will be one to watch, every time I watch her play she is great, her athleticism has been a real asset. Maddy Roberts is also really competitive and around stoppages she is great and her upside is she can go forward and kick goals.
“For Coorparoo I think Hannah Sexton is a real key to break the game up, she straightens them up with her run and carry, but I think the biggest headache will be Arnold, her height, size and clean hands are dominate.
“A fair bit has changed in the last two weeks since that qualifying final, Coorparoo got their act together last week and Cooly have lost a few players since then. Losing Kate McCarthy will hurt and Beth (Pinchin) is a state back so she will be very hard to replace.
“I don’t think either team goes in raging hot favourites, I think the result will be a goal either way, I really can’t pick it.”
By Grant Hitzman – @granthitzman