Season 2018 has been arguably the most successful ever for Southport Sharks.
Playing in the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL), Southport was competing against four AFL Reserve Grade Teams (Gold Coast Suns, Brisbane Lions, Sydney Swans & GWS Giants), and five non-AFL Clubs (NT Thunder, Aspley, Redland, Canberra & Sydney University).
Over the course of the season, we saw many major achievements:
- 12 wins from 18 games and a percentage of 145.5 enabled us to finish on top of the ladder at the end of the home and away season, earning us a week’s break.
- We hosted a home Preliminary Final against Aspley, winning by 37 points and qualifying for our first ever NEAFL Grand Final.
- We hosted a home Grand Final against the Sydney Swans, winning by 55 points and winning our first ever NEAFL Premiership. It was also our first ever NEAFL win against the Swans.
Pre-season began with a new coaching panel, consisting of Senior Coach Steve Daniel and Assistant Coaches Matthew Lappin and Aaron Cornelius. Ryan Davis and Andrew Boston also assisted on training nights. 25 new players were included on the list of 42 in a complete overhaul following the 2017 season.
Leading Teams were employed to drive a better culture and formulate a Trademark that would be the cornerstone of the 2018 season. The Leadership Group was voted on by the players and the following players were appointed:
- Seb Tape & Andrew Boston – Co-Captains
- Ryan Davis – Vice Captain
- Michael Manteit, Josh Clayton, Jordan Taylor – Leadership Group
The first game of the season was our Round Two away game against Canberra which was moved forward to Good Friday. A 62 point thrashing of the Demons was a sign of things to come.
Wins against Redland and Aspley followed but our first loss came against Sydney University by at the very average Henson Park.
Huge wins over GWS and NT Thunder saw us at 5 wins and 1 loss as we travelled to the SCG to take on Sydney Swans. This Round Seven game proved to be a defining moment of the season. We were thrashed by 88 points and conceded 10 goals in the last quarter. The players vowed this would never happen again this season.
A close loss to Gold Coast Suns was followed by the biggest upset of the year. Having not beaten Sydney Uni since 2015, we thrashed the students to the tune of 110 points, keeping them to their lowest NEAFL score ever.
Wins over Redland and NT Thunder in Darwin preceded our Round 14 home game against Brisbane Lions. Brisbane had 17 listed AFL players and a late Brandon Chadwick goal gave us a thrilling two-point victory and a sense of self belief.
Consecutive losses to Aspley and then Sydney Uni had us on the back foot but the Round 18 home game against Canberra was the confidence boost we needed. A magnificent 103- point win in front of the Premiership Player Reunions of 1998 and 2008 saw us back on top of the NEAFL ladder.
After a close loss at Aspley in Round 19, we again headed to Darwin to take on NT Thunder at TIO Stadium. An 80-point Southport win was the highest winning margin over an NT side in NEAFL history. Unfortunately, a string of cancelled flights kept us in Darwin until Monday afternoon and the team finally got home some 63 hours after leaving on the Saturday morning.
The home and away season was rounded out with a 98-point win over Redland which claimed top spot and allowed us to embark on our finals campaign very fresh after a week off.
The Preliminary Final was played at Fankhauser Reserve in very wet conditions. We dominated possession and territory from the outset and extended our lead at every change, running out convincing winners by 37 points. Jed Turner was enormous in the ruck and Seb Tape led from the front. Tom Ellard was ruled out of the Grand Final team and replaced by Brenton Payne.
A howling Southerly wind was blowing at Fankhauser Reserve for the NEAFL Grand Final. We dominated the game from the outset as Cody Filewood goaled 16 seconds into the match. The quarter time lead was 17 points and a dominant second quarter into the wind saw us 28 points in front at half time.
A six goal to one third term extended the margin to 60 points at three quarter time. Unfortunately, there was a monumental mix up on the interchange bench as play resumed and a head count was called. Josh Baxter was on the field as the 19th man. Our destiny was now in the hands of NEAFL officials. Despite the protests from the Swans, the score was not wiped and Southport Sharks were crowned NEAFL Premiers for 2018! Ryan Davis was awarded the Andrew Ireland Medal for Best on Ground.
Presentation night was held in the Dempsey Room at the Sharks Events Centre on 19th September and the following award winners were announced:
Doc MacKenzie Medal (Best & Fairerst) – Michael Manteit
Runner-Up Best & Fairest – Andrew Boston
Wally Fankhauser Memorial Trophy – Michael Manteit
Most Determined Player – Ryan Davis
Coaches Award – Josh Clayton
Ken McDonald Most Dedicated Player – Tyler Roos
Gerry Carmody Best Player in Finals Award – Ryan Davis
Bill Wood Club Person of the Year – Andrew Gross
At the NEAFL awards night in Sydney on 26th August, Steve Daniel was named the NEAFL Coach of the Year and Michael Manteit, Josh Clayton and Tom Wilkinson were named in the NEAFL Team of the Year.