By Ant Wingard @AntWingard
Coolangatta’s recent string of QWAFL games have been superb and the run has cemented the team as a genuine finals contender.
A loss last weekend to powerhouse Wilston Grange, who are yet to lose a game this season, has been the only blemish across their past month, yet still, the Bluebirds managed to render the Gorillas scoreless in the third term.
Their other results though, wins over Bond University by five points, Yeronga by 58 points and Maroochydore by 16 points, have ensured the Bluebirds hit their peak at the right time of the season.
Coolangatta have seen a number of players lift their in-game performances throughout this stretch but perhaps most notably is forward Lauren James.
Already in 2018, James has kicked 16 goals for the Bluebirds this season sits behind only Coorparoo’s Jenae Govan and Wilston Grange’s Maddison Peeters in the QWAFL goal kicking, with nine of those majors coming in the past month.
On just one occasion this year has James failed to kick a goal but her recent form – one goal against Wilston Grange, two against Bond University, five against Yeronga and one against Maroochydore – indicates just how James has been able to develop into one of the competition’s most potent forwards.
Coolangatta Tweed head coach, Matt Bedford, agreed and ensured James would eclipse her career high 21 goals in a season set in 2016.
“Across probably over the last three to four weeks, she’s just really started to hit her straps,” Bedford told aflq.com.au.
“She’s been in a rich vein of form so we’re just trying to continue that on and just work on ensuring she hits the scoreboard as often as she can.”
James’ purple patch of form has coincided with the addition of Alex Hamlyn who returned three weeks ago against the Devils from a broken leg sustained last season.
“That has released Lauren a little bit and as given her a little bit more freedom in the forward line rather than having to stay at home and play that traditional forward role,” Bedford said.
“It’s freed her up slightly. Alex will usually get the number one defender which means Lauren can get a good match-up.”
James has been around the AFL Queensland’s women’s space dating back to 2010 and has included stints at Yeronga, Palm Beach Currumbin, University of Queensland and now, the Bluebirds.
2018 represents James’ fifth season with her current side where she has played 45 games for the club including the Bluebirds’ 2016 QWAFL premiership.
All her experience in the competition means she is among the most experienced in the league, and according to Bedford, also one of the most skilful.
“She can play a role higher and then she’s able to take the ball down inside 50 as well,” he said.
“She’s a very good mark and has great skills on either side of her body. She’s starting to get more confident and its working wonders for us.”
Coolangatta will play the Bullsharks tomorrow morning at 9:45am at Bond University.