Jacob Dawson and Boyd Woodcock continued at their dominant best however injuries to other key players saw Southport tumble down the ladder following last year's grand final appearance.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 8-10 (107.9%)
Players used: 35
Played every match: 10 – Ryan Banks-Smith, Dan Charlesworth, Brayden Crossley, Jacob Dawson, Jackson Edwards, Tom Fields, Matt Gahan, Jesse Joyce, Max Spencer and Boyd Woodcock
Ex-AFL players: 14 (197 matches)
Debutants: 3 – Jackson Edwards, Byron Finch, Harry Law
Best and Fairest: 1st: Jacob Dawson, 2nd: Boyd Woodcock, 3rd: Brayden Crossley, 4th: Daniel Charlesworth, 5th: Jesse Joyce
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Boyd Woodcock (24), Jacob Dawson (15), Brayden Crossley (14)
Coaches MVP votes: Jacob Dawson (92), Boyd Woodcock (77), Jackson Edwards (20)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Jacob Dawson and Boyd Woodcock
Goalkickers: Fraser Thurlow (33), Boyd Woodcock (18), Jed Foggo (17) and Jack Sexton (17)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Jacob Dawson (32.8), Boyd Woodcock (30.2), Jackson Edwards (21.9)
Kicks: Boyd Woodcock (19.2), Jacob Dawson (16.2), Jackson Edwards (14.9)
Handballs: Jacob Dawson (16.6), Boyd Woodcock (11.0), Jesse Joyce (9.8)
Marks: Max Spencer (6.3), Zac Foot (5.9), Boyd Woodcock (5.7)
Tackles: Jacob Dawson (5.6), Brayden Crossley (5.3), Matt Shannon (4.7)
Hitouts: Brayden Crossley (29.6), Fraser Thurlow (13.9), Jed Foggo (0.6)
Clearances: Jacob Dawson (9.6), Boyd Woodcock (6.8), Jed Joyce (4.9)
Inside-50s: Boyd Woodcock (6.2), Jacob Dawson (4.6), Tom Fields (3.7)
Rebound-50s: Max Spencer (4.4), Matt McGuinness (4.3), Jackson Edwards (3.8)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Jacob Dawson and Boyd Woodcock continued to be top five players in the competition. The duo once again putting together remarkable seasons that saw them both appear in the top three of almost every stat category for the Sharks. Woodcock finished second in the Liston Medal for the second year in a row as he averaged 30 disposals and kicked a goal a game, while Dawson had averaged 33 every week. Jesse Joyce became the third musketeer in the middle, South Australian recruit Jackson Edwards was terrific mopping up and Brayden Crossley had another outstanding year in the ruck. They had some wonderful wins, including by 14 goals over Sandringham, seven goals over Geelong away and four goals over Footscray in Melbourne.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Sharks were crippled by injuries to key players. While Dawson, Woodcock and Crossley played every game, stars such as Jay Lockhart (11), Zac Foot (9), Max Pescud (7), Mack Willis (3), Matt Conroy (3) and Mitch Johnson (0) all missed massive chunks of the season. Leading goalkicker Fraser Thurlow suffered what ended up being a career-ending hamstring recurrence and Matt McGuinness also spent time on the sidelines. Having said that, they would have expected to perform better than they did, surprisingly losing four of their nine home games including heartbreakers to the Gold Coast Suns (two points) and Casey Demons (one).
How far could Southport have gone if it had kept its best team on the park for the whole season? We saw that in 2022 when the Sharks surged to the Grand Final. Injuries are more acute to a club that has to travel interstate almost every second week, so only a hard person would issue them a fail grade despite the drop of 12 places on last year. Having said that, they will be expected to bounce back hard next year, with most of their key players re-signings in the past couple of weeks and Wylie Buzza joining from the Brisbane Lions. Re-establishing the fortress at the Shark Tank will be the most important goal for Steve Daniel because most of the other jigsaw pieces are still in place.