By Terry Wilson
It has been a long time between drinks for one of Australia’s best known football clubs Surfers Paradise.
With 10 premierships and nine runners-up finishes in the old Gold Coast AFL competition, the Demons were always a force, being able to attract interstate players simply because of the club’s name and its association with sun, surf and sand.
But when the GCAFL, Brisbane AFL and Sunshine Coast clubs merged in 2000 it marked the end of an era for the Demons.
The Dees eventually dropped to the second tier of AFLSQ competition and it was in that division that they played their last grand final, in 2004 under John Millane, when Strathpine beat them by 17 points.
That dry spell is something the Demons desperately want to end. For a club that has provided 18 of their juniors to go on to AFL footy, things need to be put straight.
Current coach Brad Moore, the school teacher into his third season at the club, wants to restore success at Sir Bruce Small Park.
And after a pretty good season in 2018, when they finished fourth after losing to Morningside in the first semi-final, things are looking promising.
One huge positive is that the Demons have not suffered their regular player exodus during the off-season.
Heading into their first round match against Wilston Grange at Small Park, the Demons have lost just one regular player from, their senior list.
Defender Connor Manning is working overseas.
This means Surfers go into the 2019 campaign with perhaps the most stable playing list of all nine clubs – and with what Moore believes is a stronger playing roster.
“Our list is healthier and deeper and going into round one our headaches will be that we have so many players putting their hands up,” former Labrador coach Moore said.
“To take the next step we were aware we needed to have a deeper list and things are in place that hopefully we can go a few notches higher.
“Expectations in-house are that we want to push for that ultimate success. We know the competition is tough but we’re doing everything we can.”
The 2018 campaign of Surfers ended a couple of jinxes. They beat Labrador at Cooke-Murphy for the first time in three decades and ended a 20-year drought at Salk Oval when they beat Palm Beach Currumbin there.
Into the finals and Surfers gave away a five-goal start to Morningside which cost them their knockout semi-final, but the foundations were put in place for a big 2019.
Newcomers to Sir Bruce Small Park include midfielder Jack Yelland from West Coburg and Daniel Stubbs, brother of ace forward Sam, from Mt Gravatt.
Small forward Noa Corbett is back on the Surfers list, as is tall option Matt Green, brother of big forward Dan Green.
Other past players returning from injuries are Mitch Comben and Nathan Trevena and a handy pick-up is Dale Eames, a Southport-listed player who will act as assistant coach to Moore.
Surfers beat Mt Gravatt in the elimination final, then fell to Morningside by nine points in the first semi-final after conceding the Panthers a five-goal start.
And indications during the off-season build-up, which include wins over PBC and Western Magpies, suggest the Demons are poised to be major players in the 2019 premiership race.
“Obviously the practice matches are there to try a few things but if you go on wins and losses, so it’s good to have won a couple,” Moore said.
“They help to create a winning culture and we’re hoping to take that form into the season proper and take the next step.
“We have a young group and it was a big step forward for us last year.”
In their GCAFL days – the club was formed in 1962 – Surfers Paradise won 10 flags and finished runner-up 10 times.
It is time to return to those glory days, everyone agrees.
Played 18 (incl. finals). Won 11, lost seven. Points for 1253, points against 1070 (percentage 117.100. Finished fourth.
Best and fairest: Cassidy Haberfield.