Combatant’s journey to the 2022 QAFLW Grand Final

IT IS just about the end of another QAFL Women’s season, and for both the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Southport Sharks, there is one match left to see who will be the queens of the land in the Sunshine State.

Both teams have certainly faced their challenges in 2022, from weather interruptions in the offseason and during the season, to not being able to use their AFLW stars for much of the season but they have conquered all that is in front of them to reach the biggest dance of the year.

For the Red Lionesses, they had one of the toughest tasks in football this season, trying to go back to back after winning the 2021 title.

But even back in preseason, Red Lions coach Ross Clayfield said that they were not talking about premiership, rather that 2022 is a new kettle of fish and that his side was not looking to build on last year, but rather to “forge a new identity”.

“I know it sounds a little corny but we really not talking about premierships,” Clayfield said. “We didn’t talk a lot about the premiership last year either. We have a very different group, I guess the AFLW involvement this year is going to be pretty minimal compared to last year and we were a top two team throughout the season last year. An influx of our Lions girls certainly was a big factor, but this year will be very different.”

They certainly proved to be one of the teams to beat this season. From comfortably beating Maroochydore on the opening weekend, they have remained in the top three all season.

They did have a draw second up against Bond and had a hiccup in round five against Coorparoo, but they were the first side to beat Southport this season, and beat them again in round 15. Their worst loss of the year was to Yeronga back in Round 13, but that was a rare bump in the road as the Red Lionesses have put most opponents to the sword most weeks.

Despite not always having the likes of Dakota Davidson and Luka Yoshida-Martin at their disposal, a few players who were new faces to UQ this season have starred, including Kadie Fletcher, Kaitlyn Day and Kristen Tyquin.

Meanwhile for Southport, the Sharks have had one of the most remarkable debut seasons in state league football that many have ever seen.

Even though Southport’s Ryan Davis was “really excited” in preseason about what his team could do this season, even he probably could not have imagined how the Sharks’ season would ultimately go.

Much like the Red Lionesses, Southport has spent the year in the top three, and for much of the season they were the team to beat. The Sharks won the first six games straight, finally falling when they lost to UQ in Round 9. Not only were they winning these games, but they were doing so by convincing margins, so when watching them it felt like it was not their debut season in the league.  

The Sharks did have a few slip ups in the last few weeks of the season, so they will be certainly aiming to avoid that on Sunday afternoon. Many of Southport’s talls have been the key to their success this season. The likes of Brittany Perry lit up the start of the season, but for a while in the back end of the season after Perry left to join Port Adelaide, there were questions around where they were going to get all their goals from.

However, some of their other talls have really stood up. Darcie Davies, Selina Priest and Brianna McFarlane have all become dangerous goal kickers in the back end of the season, and Priest is not only dangerous up forward but is dangerous in the backline too. Even the likes of Kaylee Kimber have really lifted in the past few weeks, so Southport just have so many people who have contributed on field to their success.

Ultimately, two of the top two sides will go to battle for the ultimate prize in Queensland footy. They have both had such dominant seasons, but who will lift the 2022 QAFL Women’s premiership cup aloft?

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