By JESS WEBSTER
The ultimate transformation from cellar dwellers to premiership champions was complete for Southport in 2018 as they rose to the top of the NEAFL.
Here is the Sharks’ season in review.
By the Numbers
Last year: 9th
Doc Mackenzie Medal Winner
Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes
84: Josh Clayton
76: Andrew Boston
30: Michael Manteit
28: Ryan Davis
23: Dylan Fyfe
Snapshot: There were a lot of questions to be answered from a new-look Southport to begin 2018, and the Sharks signalled their intentions with a rousing 62-point victory over Canberra in the season opener. They sat comfortably in the top four all season but were prone to unexpected defeats – an 88-point thrashing by Sydney in Round 7, and a stretch of three losses from four games from Rounds 15-19. But the Sharks entered finals off the back of two hammerings of NT Thunder (80 points) and Redland (98), and once they got past Aspley in the Preliminary Final, were hot favourites to beat Sydney for the flag.
Highlight: Southport produced some of the best football this season when they were on. But no doubt the highlight was the Sharks’ Grand Final triumph for their first NEAFL premiership. Aftercoming from ninth last year, the Sharks recruited an experienced coaching team and a plethora of new talent which rose to the occasion when it mattered, gelling very quickly and turning the club back into a powerhouse in less than 12 months.
Lowlight: Not much went wrong for Southport this year as they sealed the minor premiership from what was the most competitive season in NEAFL history. But the Sharks lowered their colours against Sydney in Round 7. Many expected the Sharks to give the Swans a run for their money at the SCG, but they were outplayed after half-time as Sydney slammed on 13 goals to one to win by 88 points.
Star Power: What made Southport so successful this year was they managed to find winners all over the park. Josh Clayton was in the running for the NEAFL MVP Award all season, Michael Manteit won the club’s best-and-fairest award, and Ryan Davis won the Andrew Ireland Medal for best afield in the Grand Final. Tom Wilkinson was a star up forward and joined Manteit and Clayton in the NEAFL Team of the Year. Co-captains Andrew Boston and Seb Tape led the side brilliantly and Tyler Roos was another who stood out in defence.
What’s Next: Southport has already made some off-season moved with former AFL coach Matthew Primus coming on board as an assistant and former Gold Coast Suns utility Matt Shaw signing on for 2019. It will be a matter of how many of the Sharks stars from 2018 stay o board for next year, but if the bulk of the group stays on, there’s no reason why the Sharks can’t be contenders again.
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