HomeArticlesLifestyleGold Coast’s first professional AFL Women’s season kicks off in 2020
Serene Watson, David Lake.

Gold Coaster Serene Watson with AFLW Senior Coach David Lake

Gold Coast’s first professional AFL Women’s season kicks off in 2020

Helen Stubbs | November 2019

The Gold Coast Suns enter the professional Australian Football League Women’s Fixture for the first time in 2020, marking a major milestone in local elite sport.

AFLW will come to the Gold Coast on 15 February when the Suns take on the Richmond Tigers at Metricon Stadium.

Highly anticipated is the Round 3 match on 22 February, also at Metricon Stadium, where the Suns will clash with the Brisbane Lions in a double header with the men’s Marsh Community Series. The games are expected to attract a strong crowd of fans supporting both sides and will be televised on Fox Footy and the Seven network.

The 2019 NAB AFLW Draft saw locals Serene Watson, Dee Heslop and Georgia Breward recruited to play for the Suns. Like many of the players, they have come up through the Suns Academy, a focused training program for promising teenage footballers.

“What we love about Heslop is she thrives on contested footy, wins her own ball and enjoys physical contact,” says AFLW Senior Coach, David Lake.

“We think Watson has the attributes to succeed and develop into a premium midfielder of the competition,” says Lake. “Breward has an unbelievable commitment to making herself the best player she can be.”

Some of the teams more experienced stars include Leah Kaslar, an environmental scientist who has played for the Brisbane Lions and captained Coolangatta’s QAFLW side, and Sally Riley, half-back in the 2017 premiership-winning Adelaide Crows team.

Since starting out with eight clubs in 2017, the AFLW has grown massively to reach 14 teams in 2020. The Suns’ women’s team played in the Winter Series of 2018 and 2019, as the club began its list build of 30 players for 2020.

In November 2019 the athletes begin pre-season training in the Suns’ world class facilities at Metricon Stadium, sharing all gymnasium and training equipment with the men’s team, with access to recovery pools, saunas, ice-baths, physiotherapy and a team doctor.

The Suns’ women’s team is built on both local and interstate talent, bringing a wealth of experience and prior achievement to the team. To name a few, Charlotte Hammans was named on the Under 18 All Australian Team, while Paige Parker represented Australia in the 2019 Touch World Cup, and Kalinda Howarth was awarded runner-up Best and Fairest in the QAFLW alongside winning the Goal Kicking Award in 2019 for 31 goals in 15 games.

Pre-season training kicks off mid-November, with an induction period and education about professional habits. Physical coaching focuses on fitness, endurance and skills-based training, with sessions running three days a week, before and after work, around players’ full time jobs and study commitments.

Females who want to get started in football can contact their local club, such as the Southport Sharks, Bond or Coolangatta teams which play in the QAFLW + QWFA.

One rising star who hopes to join the AFLW in the future is 13-year-old Havana Hughes, who plays for the Burleigh Bombers and made the grand final of the QCup State Championships. Hughes was named on the All Australian Under 15 team.

“I’m excited that the Suns have a team next year,” says Hughes, “and to see all the teams now playing AFLW on the big stage. It’s an exciting time to be playing footy and I’m really looking forward to the journey ahead, and hopefully one day making a professional team.”

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