By Ant Wingard
In 2018, Wilston Grange rose to the top of the QAFLW hierarchy and in doing so, compiled one of the most dominant teams in modern competition history.
Their super team helped lift the club from a premature finals departure in 2017 to reach the Grand Final one year later.
It wasn’t until Round 15 when the Gorillas lost their first and only game of the season before continuing their dominant form to a historic 14-point premiership win over Coorparoo on the final Saturday in August.
The Gorillas may have it tougher in season 2019 though as a plethora of premiership players have since left for pastures new, and while a number of quality players remain from that side, the outfit will bare a distinctly different zeal this time around.
Among the departures to the team are 2018 AFLW draftees Jacqui Yorston (Yeronga) and Jordan Membrey (Coolangatta), Jemma Abbott (relocated), Courtney Daneic and Michaele Campbell (both Aspley) and Maroochydore juniors Shannon Campbell, Brooke Randall and Isabel Dawes, who all return to their junior clubs.
Premiership winning coach Laura Kidd, who helped steer the Gorillas to their history making title, has also left her post in the coaches box but her influence around the club will remain as she takes on the role of Wilston Grange Women’s Director.
In Kidd’s place is Rod Podbury, who remains confident the Gorillas, despite the vast player movement that has taken place at Hickey Park, will still be able to mix it with the other seven QAFLW teams.
“The great thing about having so many new players is you have no idea what your limit is until you see some of these girls four or five girls in,” Podbury told aflq.com.au.
“We’ve still got half a dozen from our Grand Final team that has experience playing at that level. I’d would hope we remain competitive, that’s my expectation.”
The uncapped potential within the group is certainly there, and you only have to look at the inclusion within the team to see why.
Tall forward Rachel Elsmore, who despite limiting appearances throughout the Gorillas’ preseason games, joins the team from Pennant Hills in the AFL Sydney competition alongside Lauren Shakleton (Yeronga), Charlotte Kittle (Northern Beaches) and Coorparoo trio Sally Reiners, Kristen Tyquin and Kaitlyn Day.
Elsewhere, the Gorillas rebuild has seen them recruit players from a multitude of other sporting codes.
Sarah Fuller, a small midfielder who crosses from soccer, Chloe Litherland from netball and former Olympic rower Maddy Edmunds are also among the inclusions to the team this year.
Podbury remained coy about the prospects of Edmunds, who won a bronze medal at the 2017 World Rowing Championships but hinted at the potential of the 27-year-old.
“She’s been at the AIS for eight or nine years so she’s a really interesting story,” he said.
“There’s not too many people of that size who are that fit and that strong. She could be anything.”
Wilston Grange will open their season against University of Queensland at UQ this weekend before unfurling their premiership flat against Maroochydore at home in Round 2.