By JESS WEBSTER
A powerful midfield was the catalyst for Preliminary Finalists Aspley as they once again featured among the contenders with a sixth consecutive finals appearance.
Here is the Hornets’ season in review.
By the Numbers
Ladder position: 3rd
Last year: 6th
Carl Herbert Medal Winner
Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes
95: Matthew Payne
56: Andrew Swallow
48: Jake Spencer
39: Ben Warren
32: Reece Toye
Snapshot: Aspley brought in some big names during the off-season but they were on shaky ground early when they lost their first three games. By mid-season Aspley had recovered to sit comfortably in fifth and stormed in to finals off the back of six wins in a row – including two over eventual premier Southport. A hard-fought Elimination Final victory over defending premier Brisbane sent them into a clash with the Sharks for a spot in the Grand Final, but it was Southport who ended the Hornets’ season on their way to premiership glory.
Highlight: The Hornets were involved in their fair share of thrillers in 2018, including a one-point epic against Sydney at the SCG and a five-point heart-stopper against the Sharks at home. But they saved their best win for last when they hosted Brisbane in the Elimination Final. Scores were level at half-time but it was the Hornets who rose to the occasion. Led by a match-winning performance from NEAFL MVP Matthew Payne (three goals), Aspley booted 10 goals to two in the second half for a memorable victory on home turf.
Lowlight: Arguably Aspley’s most disappointing loss came against Canberra at South Pine in Round 12.The Hornets were never really in the contest, trailing by 42 points at three-quarter time before eventually losing by 33. It was a hard loss to swallow when you consider Aspley won the hit-outs (54-27), and clearances (42-26), but skill errors cost them dearly. In the end, 64 of Canberra’s 99 points were scored from Aspley’s turnovers.
Star Power: Aspley were big winners in the recruitment stakes with three former AFL players – Andrew Swallow, Jake Spencer and Jono Freeman – landing at the club in 2018. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, as once again co-captain Matthew Payne was crowned the competition’s best player with his third NEAFL MVP triumph. Swallow, Spencer, and co-captain Ben Warren were rewarded for their outstanding seasons with NEAFL Team of the Year selection, while Reece Toye was in career-best form and Freeman led their goalkicking list.
What’s Next: It will be a new era for the Hornets next year with legendary coach John Blair moving on, and former assistant Daniel Webster taking the helm. Retaining the club’s top talent will be a priority for the Hornets, as well as bringing in some more fresh young talent to keep the side in a strong position to contend for a seventh straight finals series in 2019.
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