20/04/2024

Mitch Scholard (R) is raring to go for the QAFL Grand Final. (Photo: Maroochydore Roos AFL/Facebook)

After joining a new league less than two years ago, Maroochydore already has the chance to claim the club's first QAFL flag.

Maroochydore star forward Mitch Scholard could be just 120 minutes from holding the club’s first QAFL premiership.

It’s been a journey that the goalkicker has been on since the Roos were on the rise to become one of the most dominant teams in the Queensland Football Association.

The club made the jump up to the state’s top level after making back-to-back grand finals in 2018 and 19 and winning the former, stamping its authority as one of the premier football teams in Queensland.

Now barely even two years into the new competition, and they’re looking to conquer it too.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Scholard is one of the players that’s been able to watch as the team outgrew their former league and blossomed into greatness.

“I’m super proud of the whole club,” he said.

“Not just the senior group, but the colts, they went pretty deep into finals. Our reserves, our development group, they went pretty deep into finals as well. Last year, our development team only won one game for the year.

“Super proud of the whole club to galvanise as much as we have and push deep into finals. It certainly was our goal this year.

“We played finals last year and thought we still had a lot of room for improvement. We never set a ceiling and said ‘let’s just play finals’ or keep playing footy. We backed ourselves to win most games.

“Before I got the club we played in three or four grand finals. I was lucky enough to play in two, won one, lost one.

“The time was ripe for the club to step up and play better footy [in a higher division]. Last year was tough, it was only half a season with COVID, [but] it was probably the perfect length. Each week felt like a final, it was almost double points because you’re playing each team once.”

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Maroochydore’s fifth place position in 2020 was enough to see it advance to QAFL finals, but not enough to make a splash. The Roos heartbreakingly lost by a goal to Sherwood to be eliminated in the first week.

2021 looked likely to be the same, this time from even lower in sixth.

Returning back to play after the last month of the fixtured games were completely cancelled due to COVID lockdowns, the Roos have made the miracle run.

Trailing by three goals at three quarter time to Redland-Victoria Point, they found another gear and scored seven last quarter majors to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The lead swinging three times in the last, Scholard was responsible for three of those goals to add to his total of seven for the day.

Scholard boots one of his seven goals in the elimination final. (Photo: AFL Queensland)

Going in as underdogs against reigning premiers Morningside, the Roos did it again, keeping the Panthers to a single goal in the second half.

The preliminary final was then another lesson in the fine art of stealing a win from the death.

Down by three goals at three quarter time once again, the Roos went up another gear. They piled on the goals in the last 10 minutes to advance through to the grand final.

“It was pretty surreal to be honest, it just happened so quickly,” Scholard said.

“It started pretty well, we kicked the first five goals, then we hit a flat spot for a few quarters there. We knew they’re a quality team, Labrador, we knew they were going to come. We just had to weather the storm for a while.

“Didn’t play our best footy in the second and third quarters. That finish happened so quick we didn’t realise. Momentum’s hard to stop, and we’ve got a huge belief amongst the group that we can win from anywhere.

“Even though it was Labrador’s home game last week, we felt the crowd was mostly yelling for us.”

The friends you make along the way

Likely joining Scholard in running out for tomorrow’s grand final will be a group of guys that he played alongside in the QFA flag.

Jacob Simpson, Lochie Laing, Daniel Fleming, Brodi Finn, Brent Pearson and Josh Filo all played alongside the gun forward in the 2018 premiership.

They’ve all been around the club for various periods of time, with a few others getting their chance at vying for grand final glory in 2019 as well.

A Roo for life, it would come close to capping off Scholard’s career if he could bring another flag home alongside this group of players.

“I’m 30 now, so I’m closer to the end of my career than the start,” he said.

“It would be unreal. I played junior footy for Maroochydore, I went away for a few years back down south and played with Aspley in the NEAFL competition for a while, but Maroochydore’s always been my home club.

“To be a part of it and play a role within that would be huge. Probably something I’d look back on in a few years’ time when I’m retired and sit around and have a beer.

May be an image of 1 person, playing a sport and outdoors
Photo: Maroochydore Roos AFL

“You could see how much [the prelim win] meant to [the old boys], walking off the ground. It almost means more to us as a playing group knowing how much support we’ve got behind us.

“I reflected on it a little bit today, because it was three years ago [on Thursday] we won the grand final in 2018.

“We’ve probably only got seven or eight from that team, but I’m still super close with all of them. We know we’ve got all of their support as well.

“It justified the decision the whole club made to go up to the QAFL. It was the right time, and we certainly held our own our first year.

“Now we’re into a grand final.”

Broadbeach and Maroochydore will face off in the QAFL Grand Final live on the AFL Queensland website from 2:30pm (AEST) on Saturday.

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