PREVIEW | QAFLW Round 1: Grand Final rematch to open season

A GRAND Final rematch between University of Queensland and Southport opens the 2023 QAFL Women’s season tomorrow afternoon. The reigning premiers University of Queensland stopped a fairytale first season for Southport at the top state level, winning by seven points in overtime to make it back-to-back flags in the competition. Fast forward seven months and the sides lock horns at Brighton Homes Arena.

Saturday, April 15 @ Brighton Homes Arena, 3pm

Returning to the venue where the AFL Women’s Grand Final was hosted, the Red Lionesses will be hoping to kickstart their premiership defence off on the right note against a determined Sharks side. Southport players will be keen to put in a strong Round 1 performance against the team that denied them a flag in their first QAFL Women’s season.

Madi Crowley-Long will again lead University of Queensland, with the Red Lionesses having some great young talent including Ava Seton and Kadie Fletcher. The pair will be out to put in good seasons with the hope of re-landing, and landing respectively on an AFLW list.

Fresh off being drafted to the Lions, watch out for Poppy Boltz for the Sharks, but she is far from the only one with ex-Cat Carly Remmos and AFLW experienced player Selina Priest also running out for Southport.

Versatile tall Steph O’Brien will look to put in a great season after playing in the University of Queensland’s premiership side, while top-age AFLW Academy member and as of today, Gold Coast Suns AFLW recruit Darcie Davies will prove a difficult matchup for the Red Lionesses. One University of Queensland top-ager who might try and quell Davies – albeit not directly given her 13cm size difference – is 171cm defender, Laura Roy.

Southport heads into the game as likely favourites given just seven of the reigning premiers’ grand final side remains intact, but there will be plenty of fresh faces for both teams out there.

Saturday, April 15 @ Bond University, 3:30pm

In another tantalising Round 1 match, Bond University will be looking to put their disappointing straight sets QAFL Women’s finals exit last season firmly in the past with a first-up home match against fellow finalists, Maroochydore. Similarly to the Bull Sharks, the Roos had few answers in their sole post-season series match, going down to Southport by 41 points.

Ex-Lion Leah Kaslar returns to Bond University for the 2023 season after a season with Woodville-West Torrens in the SANFL Women’s, while experienced young ruck Jasmyn Davidson is a key tall always improving. The Bull Sharks are the team to watch for AFLW Draft talent, with top-ager Sienna McMullen and bottom-age trio Havana Harris, Tara Harrington and Nyalli Milne among the embarrassment of young riches at the club.

Top-age tall Chelsea Gillard is a highly-touted talent and will be a name to remember at Maroochydore, while Sara-Jane O’Grady only turned 21 late last year and is a danger. Tall Lions utility Kiara Hillier remains at Maroochydore too.

Saturday, April 15 @ Giffin Park, 4:45pm

The two sides who finished just outside the finals spots last season clash at Giffin Park with the fifth placed Coorparoo and sixth placed Aspley hoping to rise up the ladder in 2023. There is some strong core talent on both lists with the Hornets wanting to grab an early road win, while the Kings look to start their season off on the right not.

Aspley has a nice balance of talent on its list including the recruitment of former Western Bulldogs VFLW mature-ager Lucy Schneider who joins Chelsea Winn and Laura Blue as ones to watch. Rachael Vetter is always a danger for the Hornets, having won the QAFL Women’s leading goalkicker award last season. Vetter combined with top-age AFLW Academy forward Rania Crozier will cause plenty of headaches for opposition defences, while Courtney Daniec is consistent as anyone else in the competition.

Saturday, April 15 @ Leyshon Park

It has been a long time between drinks for Wilston Grange who went through the 2022 season winless and took out the unwanted wooden spoon. Yeronga South Brisbane – premiers in the Covid-19 affected 2020 season – sunk down to seventh place on the ladder having only recorded the three wins, two of which came against the Gorillas.

Lucy Bellinger will captain the Devils in 2023, with teenagers, Ebony Milne and Farrandai Hopkins named to play in Round 1. A highly touted recruit for the Gorillas is Northern Territory talent Naomi Celebre who will step up into the midfield alongside fellow recruit Jamie Winter. The pair, as well as captain and defender Chloe Litherland are among those to watch for the side.

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