Season 2016 saw Southport Sharks compete in a 10 team North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) competition consisting of Southport Sharks, Gold Coast Suns, Brisbane Lions, Sydney Swans, GWS Giants, Aspley Hornets, Redland Bombers, Northern Territory Thunder, Canberra Demons and Sydney University.
Pre-season kicked off in mid-November with three training sessions per week. Key signings Andrew Boston and Fraser Thurlow, both Southport Junior players, had returned to the club after AFL stints with Gold Coast and Essendon respectively, to bolster our playing list.
Expectations were high when the playing group resumed training in January and many players were recording personal best times in the 2km testing. Unfortunately, we were dealt a savage blow in February when 2015 Best & Fairest winner and Assistant Coach Josh Hunt accepted a position with the Brisbane Lions and left the club. The loss of leadership both on and off the field cannot be underestimated. February also saw the departure of key recruit Ben Weightman who returned to Victoria for family reasons.
The coaching panel was headed up by Nathan Bock, with Southport legends Dane Carmody and Brett Thompson as his assistants. Jack Anthony was a playing Assistant Coach and Strength & Conditioning Manager Matt Kennedy also assisted on game day.
Pre-season Camp was held at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre in Casuarina, NSW. The players participated in a wide range of activities, culminating in a 10km ironman event on the Sunday. It was a fantastic weekend and credit to Matt Kennedy for his organisation of the camp. The only negative was a season-ending ACL injury to Ben Hancock.
The Leadership Group was elected by the players on camp and the following appointments were ratified by the Board:
Captain – Ben Headland
Vice Captain – Evan Panozza
Deputy Vice Captains – Glenn Screech, Jason Burge, James Holland
During February and March, we played four practice matches and recorded wins over the Suns Academy, Redland, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns. Our preparation for the season ahead had been faultless.
A narrow loss at Aspley in Round 1 was followed by a 51 point win at home over Canberra. Losses to both Sydney teams had us at 1-3 at the round 5 Bye. The Round 6 loss at Redland was devastating. After kicking the first 6 goals of the match, we eventually lost by 5 points in a game that would prove very costly.
The players responded with a brilliant performance to beat Northern Territory by 17 points in sweltering conditions in Darwin. A loss to Sydney University followed by an easy win in Canberra led us to a Round 10 clash at home against Aspley.
This game was to be significant for a number of reasons. Monsoonal conditions greeted us at Fankhauser Reserve but once the decision was made to actually go ahead with the game, our players produced an amazing performance to win by 47 points and keep Aspley goalless. This game was unfortunately called off during the third quarter after Southport gun Jack Anthony sustained a serious neck injury. Jack was unable to play for the remainder of 2016.
Wins over the Brisbane Lions and Redland had us sitting in 4th position on the ladder after Round 13. From this point on, we were only able to record one more win, over the Brisbane Lions, and crashed out of the top 6 after a final round loss to Northern Territory at Fankhauser Reserve.
We finished the season with 7 wins and 11 losses. While we missed out on a finals berth, it should be noted that we were very competitive in all 2016 games, which was reflected with a final percentage of 103.3%.
The loss of key personnel prior to the season, along with long term injuries to players such as Jack Anthony, Todd Grayson, Ben Headland and Rob Clements, were the major factors in our poor finish to the season.
Jarrod Field was appointed as General Manager – Football Operations at the beginning of the season and at season’s end, Nathan Bock was reappointed as Senior Coach for 2017.
This year’s Presentation Night was held in the Premier Room on 9th September, when Andrew Boston was awarded the ’Doc Mackenzie’ Medal for 2016.
Other award winners were as follows:
Jordan Keras – Runner-Up Best & Fairest
Seb Rogers – Best First Year Player
Haydn Kiel – Coach’s Award
Fraser Thurlow – Ken McDonald Most Dedicated Player
Glenn Screech – Wally Fankhauser Memorial Trophy
Sarah Boston – Bill Wood Club Person of the Year