Friends and foes: Two Queensland teams enjoying healthy rivalry

CRAIG Starcevich could be forgiven for holding a grudge against Gold Coast – but he doesn't.

Despite the Suns decimating Brisbane's list to fill its inaugural AFL Women's team in 2020, the Lions coach says the two Queensland clubs are working together to make the game stronger in the Sunshine State.

Gold Coast not only recruited eight women that played for Brisbane in 2019, but also lured David Lake to be their head coach – a trusted assistant to Starcevich for three seasons.

Lions captain Leah Kaslar left, now playing in her home city, as did veteran Sam Virgo and young midfield gun Jacqui Yorston.

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But speaking to womens.afl, Starcevich remained pragmatic about the upheaval to his team, saying while the on-field rivalry would be "strong", things were much more cordial at the moment.

"Broad picture – it's great for Queensland footy," he said of having a second team.

"We want to make AFL footy the number one sport of choice for a talented female athlete.

"The rivalry part will be strong from the outset purely because there's nine or 10 (women) that have played for us.

"They're all mates, they all hang out and talk and comment on each other's social media posts, but they want to beat each other."

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Starcevich and Lake are long-time friends who have worked extensively with junior women's football.

The opposing coaches are constantly talking about the challenges each club is facing.

It's an interesting dynamic.

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Although remaining tight-lipped about the specifics, Starcevich said the Lions and Suns would get together in the new year to train or play a practice match.

"Come game day it'll be terrific because the rivalry will be out there," he said.

"Everything else is a little bit of working together as to how we can continue to make Queensland footy strong."

No club has been impacted more by the competition's expansion than Brisbane. It reached Grand Finals in 2017 and 2018 before sliding down the ladder last season.

Dejected Lions after the 2018 AFLW Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

They have a core of eight players still left from the first season, but the team only vaguely resembles the one that first ran out less than three years ago.

Gone are Tayla Harris, Jamie Stanton (who also made her way to the Suns via North Melbourne), Kaitlyn Ashmore and more recently Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Nat Exon and Kate McCarthy.

Starcevich says after the initial "shock" of losing players, he moves on quickly.

"When expansion was happening, I thought "really, is what we're offering not (good enough)?"

"We've gone from eight teams to 14 teams. There's a lot of Lions players at other clubs and you could almost take that as a compliment."

And as for what to expect in 2020, even the coach is a little apprehensive.

"That combination of character and work ethic is quite strong in our group," he said.

"What that means for wins and losses, I'm not sure."

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