100 games marks student footy team’s QAFLW success

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
The 2023 Senior Premiership winning team

The Bond University QAFLW program began as a group of students who had barely touched a football.

For current seniors captain Paris Lightfoot, thinking about how far the team has come since those early days still makes her shake her head in disbelief.

Back in 2015, Lightfoot says they “were a very small uni student-based team at that point”. 

“Most of us had played netball or other sports, none of us had any AFL experience. We had about nine players and often had to borrow players from other teams.”

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They lost their first game by more than 100 points.

“Maybe it was our first few games actually,” says Lightfoot.

Kicking goals amidst tough competition

A decade on, things are very different, with the club celebrating its 100th QAFLW match on the weekend.

“It seems like just yesterday we were progressing into the QAFLW,” Bond AFL board member Sam Schiphorst says.

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“We’ve had a number of girls drafted into the AFLW and we are now the most successful program at introducing talent into the AFLW. We won our first QAFLW senior premiership last year. In 100 games we have achieved so much.”

The women’s break-out year saw them into the QAFLW league where they entered a senior side, as well as a reserves team. 

The success of the reserves, arguably one of the best performing Bond University teams, proved the program structure of working from the bottom up was a winning one. 

The university’s introduction of the Riewoldt AFL Excellence Scholarship – designed to get more talent into the squad while they completed a degree – demonstrated an investment in the female space and helped ensure that people who came on board could flourish in a supportive environment.

“We look at developing the girls as players but also as people,” Lightfoot says

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“It’s always cool when some of them get drafted and go on to bigger and better things. It’s the players that put in the work, utilise the environment we foster, the facilities, training and coaching, that see the most progress. Everyone gets to know each other on a deeper level as well, which is great.”

Lightfoot believes it’s “why a lot of our girls stick around for an age”.

“It’s why I have stuck around for 10 years,” she says. “It’s because of the relationships.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live