The eyes of the women’s footy world turn to the Sunshine state this Sunday, as Coorparoo takes on Yeronga South Brisbane in the 2017 QWAFL Grand Final at Leyshon Park.
It will be a unique event for women’s Aussie rules in Queensland, with the QWAFL decider being the last match in the first-ever Queensland women’s Grand Finals triple header, being proceeded earlier in the day by the QWAFA Division One and Two Grand Finals.
One of the stars the crowd will be paying their entry fee on the day to see is Brisbane Lions captain Emma Zielke.
A former captain with the Coorparoo Kings, Zielke spent the previous season at the UQ Red Lions before deciding to come back to the club she had won multiple premierships with this year.
“It does feel like home, I really missed the place when I left,” Zielke told Girls Play Footy.
“They looked after me when I came back and they treated me like I never did leave.
“It’s really good to be home; I live right around the corner, and the club has a really good culture there and I’m glad to be back.”
Along with Zielke’s return, the Kings have been able to pick up a number of quality recruits, none more so than former Tasmanian and WAWFL footballer Jessica Weutschner.
The Brisbane Lions forward has settled in well to her new state league club and her Lions captain said she was outstanding with her five goal performance in the semi-final two weeks ago.
“She’s been in great form throughout the season, and she’s really hitting her peak at the moment,” Zielke said.
“Having her up and firing has been great, and pretty much gotten us into a position with her left boot, where we are now.
“Hopefully she’ll have a really good game on Sunday.”
Like elsewhere in the country, the QWAFL season kicked off with a number of AFLW players missing due to a mandate break for those that had played in the national competition.
Zielke said that didn’t worry her Coorparoo team, who had plenty of talent to cover in the early rounds.
“We’ve got our generals that have been playing for years; experienced girls like Cleo Davis who is our stand-in captain at the moment, because our captain Sally Young did her knee at the start of the season, so she’s really stood up.
“Emma Gibson, who has been there for years, she’s grown as a player as well.
“We’ve got some really solid experience in the team that didn’t go to AFLW level, but they’ve really held the fort down and were doing a great job while we [the AFLW players] were away.”
For the Devils’ Sam Virgo, the bitter taste of defeat at the big dance has occurred twice in the past twelve months.
One being with the Lions going down to the Crows in March, the other being when Yeronga gave up a late lead to Coolangatta Tweed in last year’s QWAFL Grand Final.
That loss at Leyshon Park really stung the Devils and is what has been driving them forward, as Virgo told Girls Play Footy.
“Two points, it was brutal that day and the fire has definitely been burning ever since,” Virgo explained.
“We’ve been building all year and that’s definitely been the motivator in the back of our minds, willing us along in the journey, and thank goodness we’re peaking at the right time.”
Like Coorparoo, the Devils have had to rely on their depth to cover the absence of their AFLW stars, and Virgo says those players on the fringe of possibly being drafted to the Lions have delivered.
“Renee Cowan, she’s definitely come a long way, she’s from a soccer background and come along leaps and bounds in the last twelve months, and stood up in a leadership role on-field.
“Kaitlyn Cantrell, she’s stepped in as captain this year with the absence of the AFLW players.
“She’s come into that role with great energy and really led by example.”
Along with getting Jordan Zanchetta back after damaging her ACL last year, the Devils have been lucky enough to secure the services of Lions marquee Sabrina Frederick-Traub, whom many believe has been the missing piece in the puzzle for Yeronga’s title at the premiership.
“She’s a huge asset to have and we’re really lucky to have her on board.
“Her contribution in a leadership role, as well as on field performance, has been outstanding.”
With both sides evenly matched, perhaps the best person to offer a prediction on who will win is the coach of last year’s premiers Coolangatta Tweed, and regular contributor to the Girls Play Footy Podcast, Aaron Russell.
“They’ve been building week-by-week, Coorparoo, so they’ve got some really experienced leaders in there, who know what this weekend in all about,” Russell explained.
“Yeronga on the other hand… it’s their starts, last week they had a slow start against Wilston Grange, week before that had a really slow start against Coorparoo, which could be blamed for not quite getting over the line in the end.
“I’m tipping Coorparoo in another close one.
“Zielke to have a blinder; Tarni White, I think they’re going to throw her in the middle and unleash her; and Aly Anderson, I’m expecting her to have a massive game… she just gets leather poising week in, week out.”
The 2017 Queensland Women’s Australian Football League Grand Final gets underway Sunday, 27th August, from 3:00pm at Leyshon Park.
The game can be viewed live below.
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