Oval 7 was ablaze with anticipation, the spectators teemed with excitement. Today they would see history made as the UQ Red Lionesses were set to take on Caboolture in a game that would see one of the two first-year teams taking their first ever sips from the sweet chalice of victory.
10am Sunday morning is not a time at which you would regularly see many of the varsity girls out of bed let alone in a state fit for battle. In fact, just some mere months ago very few of these ladies knew what a handpass was. Most of them still thought the “fat side” was something to be avoided at all costs. But they had come a long way. Today they were ready to go to war.
From the first bounce it was clear that this would be a scrappy affair. Both sides were giving it everything as neither was willing to let this opportunity slip away easily. Millie Read dominated the ruck contests, revelling in the physical nature of the contest. Strong forward pressure from the Uni girls kept a lot of the play in their forward 50 but they were unfortunately unable to capitalise due to some rushed shots on goal under pressure. Wet conditions made ball-handling difficult and kept scoring very low. The sides huddled together with the score reading UQ 0.3.3 to Caboolture 0.1.1 at the end of the first.
Urged to keep the good start going the Uni girls came out firing in the second term with Chloe “Ranga” Langbroek chalking up the first major of the match from a difficult angle. In what was to be her last match on Australian soil our Irish import Anna O’Grady was intimidating as always around the contests while Amelia House triggered umpteen turnovers through her trademark tackling pressure. Sarah “Yankee” Lake, Harriet “Wings” Yeates and Sophie “B1” Gedda pushed up the ground and linked up well across half-forward, while at the other end of the field the other banana-in-crime, Sophie “B2” Anderson, created plenty of drive off half-back playing loose behind the ball. Clare “Bear” Findlay and Kate “Mum” Heliotis were similarly stoic in defence. Despite all this Caboolture picked up two goals against the run of play in the dying stages and took a five point lead into the long break.
The noise in the rooms at half-time was deafening. The girls knew they were in with a big chance with their younger fitter legs giving them every opportunity to run over the top of the opposition in the second half. The injection of Daryl Jensen into the centre paid immediate dividends. The midfield banded together to create a strong wall, locking the ball inside the Red Lionesses’ forward half for almost the entire third term. This dominance was reflected in the eight-to-two scoring shot count for the quarter. Efficiency in front of goals was telling as the girls piled on one goal seven behinds to Caboolture’s two straight goals against the flow. The girls knew that they were outplaying their opponents despite trailing by four points heading into the last stanza and were determined to run out the game strongly.
The final quarter was breathtaking from the home side as everything fell into place. During the break Caboolture lost two of the four girls that they had borrowed from a neighbouring top-four side but refused to give up and did not make it going easy for UQ. In the face of this pressure Marikki Watego continued to provide her fantastic run and carry, at one stage seemingly attempting to score a length of the field “try”. Clearance specialist Tia Bool was inspirational and immensely influential lifting her teammates with a true captain’s knock. “Ranga” Langbroek presented hard out of the square and slotted her third early on in the quarter after which the Red Lionesses could sense they were on the brink of something special. While also keeping the visitors scoreless the Uni girls piled on four goals four for the final quarter.
When the make-shift siren sounded Oval 7 erupted into euphoria. The Red Lionesses stood victorious 6.15.51 to Caboolture’s 4.3.27 in just reward for their dedication to learning the game over the previous months. Ecstatic embraces abounded across the field and the coaches were swamped by a sea of spirited smiles tackling them into the mud. The sounds of “drunk last night” being belted out by female voices echoed around the changerooms for the first time ever, and despite the awkward positioning of this match in the middle of exams many of the girls certainly lived up to the lyrics of the club song during post-match celebrations.
The girls are fully aware that this is merely the first step toward building a strong, successful and most importantly enjoyable team culture but also certainly recognise the significance of the historic first win. They are eager to continue this success through the second half of the season as the competition begins to split into two Divisions and are looking forward to continuing their football development. Click here to watch the historic version of the club song, and here to read one of the girls’ first hand account of the victory.