Memories of last year’s shortened, but successful, AFL Canberra season will be long forgotten when the Queanbeyan Tigers eye back-to-back premierships ahead of the competition’s first round on Saturday, 1 May.
Queanbeyan’s proud Tigers will again have plenty of bite ahead of a full home-and-away schedule of 15 games, plus a full finals series, for all competitions. Only 10 games were played in 2020’s shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his fourth season as first-grade captain, Josh Bryce says the club has picked up some key recruits and had three successful trial matches against strong Victorian clubs.
The Tigers have picked up a big-marking forward Joe Stapleton, who joins his younger brother, Tom, at Queanbeyan after being delisted from the Sydney Swans. However, the club has lost a couple of strong players in former AFL Canberra best and fairest Kel Evans, who has signed with Canberra Demons in the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) competition, and Harry Grant, an ex-Tathra player who has decided to pursue his AFL career in South Australia.
With co-coaches Adrian Pavese and Kade Klemke, and a host of talented local juniors who have risen through the ranks, the Tigers will again be strong contenders for the AFL Canberra premiership.
“We lost all three of our practice matches against really high-quality opposition from the Ovens-Murray area in Victoria, but we’re not at all concerned by that. They were only narrow losses so it’s actually a good thing to have a few losses like that in trial matches as it makes us hungry for the real thing here,” Bryce tells Region Media.
The Tigers will face an equally hungry Tuggeranong Valley AFC side in the opening round on 1 May, and Bryce says the club is optimistic of winning back-to-back premierships in 2021.
“It’s been pedal to the metal since giving the boys a break after Christmas to freshen up,” says Bryce.
“The teams we trialled against had ex-AFL players playing and we feel we matched it with them so we’re ready to go.”
Bryce says the Tigers’ grand final opponent, Eastlake Demons, will again be strong, along with Ainslie Tricolours and Belconnen Magpies.
“I hear James Bennett is going around for his 18th season in AFL Canberra, for Belconnen, so they’ll be good again,” says Bryce. “It’s the big four really – us, Ainslie, Eastlake and Belconnen – that are always going to be tough to beat.
“Tuggeranong is coming along pretty well now, too, and have some good new recruits so it’s going to be a really competitive season for us.”
Queanbeyan Tigers’ women’s program has also made big leaps in line with the success of AFLW, with both the women’s first grade and reserve grade sides keen for redemption after losing their respective grand finals in 2020.
Bryce says the club prides itself on being family-first and came together during a pre-season training camp where the players trained as one.
“We put in the hard yards during that camp altogether, and that club feel is what we pride ourselves on, where the success of any team is shared throughout the club,” he says.
This unity is also reflected by the club’s supporters, such as two of their major sponsors, Canberra Community Bank and allinsure, who have backed the club for several years.
“The Queanbeyan Tigers are one of our longest-running sponsorships,” says Canberra Community Bank executive officer Dean Goulder. “We are truly part of the team when working with them. It is a testament to their community spirit that they were able to not only survive but thrive in 2020, and we know they can go back-to-back in 2021.”
Allinsure managing director Peter Chamberlain said his company had no hesitation backing the Tigers for its seventh year.
“We are obviously very proud to be supporting a community organisation that prides itself on its incredible passion, culture and success,” he says. “It has been a fantastic opportunity to not only support local sport, but also partner with an organisation whose community values align so closely with our own.
“The commitment to the club is evident throughout all of the players, staff, fans, volunteers, families and sponsors, and we’re lucky to be a part of that.”