By Beth Newman
UQ faces a second straight step up in competition as it readies itself for the QAFL, and senior coach, Matt Stewart, says the club has done everything possible to prepare for their elevation.
While they’re still a relatively inexperienced side, the Red Lions lifted their recruiting efforts in the off-season, landing some handy talent.
The club has seen massive growth in the past two years, moving from three to nine teams and has a large talent pool to draw from, but faces a major challenge of that second consecutive step up in competition.
Stewart admitted this year would be a challenge for the side, who were in SEQAFL Division Two in 2012, but said they were constantly improving.
“This group has got a lot of improvement in us compared to other clubs who were at the top of the ladder last year, who are really just refining,” he said.
“Each week, we improve in big steps, which is exciting but we’ve just got to be up there against the other teams.”
Interstate recruits, Adam Culvenor, Tim Davidson and Tom Crameri, have been standouts over the summer, and Stewart said the team had bonded quickly.
“Put their footy aside, just their attitude and application and all our existing guys that have come from last year, haven’t missed a session, they’re really working hard, gelling well together,” he said.
Click above to see our video chat with Matt Stewart.
Stewart has brought back some experience in the coaching ranks as well this season, his second as senior coach, with 2011 and 2012 grand final coach, Tim Mackinley, and new strength and conditioning coach, Ross Wilkinson, on board.
“We’ve basically set about putting together the best team of people to support the guys in the step up,” he said.
“We’ve got Ross Wilkinson doing strength and conditioning, Tim’s back from Morningside, we’ve got Darren Harvey who’s back from overseas and coached the twos their last 2.3 grand finals in a row and then Chris Burgess who’s an ex-player also on the coaching panel,” he said.
“Having a team of 4/5 guys who all bring something different is really the key.
“I don’t’ think in the coaching group, there’s one person that is the be all and end all. I think the key to our success this year is the team.”
Stewart said that team mentality had permeated throughout the club, with everyone reading from the same song sheet in 2014.
“Everyone we recruited, we’re all on the same page and we spent a lot of time getting everyone across everything,” he said.
“We’re a values-driven organisation with people who really believe in our values and only people like that really hang around and that’s why it’s such a positive place,” he said.
“Most of the people here like a challenge and we’ve got a massive one, so they’ll dig in.
The Red Lions play their first QAFL match against Sandgate at Oval 7 on Saturday, April 5.
The QAFL has been reformed in season 2014 due to a restructure of the NEAFL competition.
The Queensland Australian Football League aspires to be the best community-based football competition in the state. Provide a player pathway to the NEAFL/AFL and provide opportunities for the best community players to represent their clubs in a quality competition.
Clubs applied for a QAFL licence based on 6 core pillars (Administration, Finance, Brand & Culture, Performance, Facilities and Strategic Plan).