It was a match to remember in Mackay for hometown hero Lauren Bella, despite the SUNS going down to the Lions in Game 2 of the QW Winter Series.

Named as co-captain for the match, Bella led from the front, showing off her athleticism in the ruck in front of friends and family at Great Barrier Reef Arena.

Speaking post-match, Bella said she was honoured to have the opportunity to lead the SUNS in Mackay.

“It was a pretty surreal feeling running out on to the field and having the little junior mascots next to me,” Bella said.

“It was definitely really exciting and having my hometown backing me was really great.

“It was a bit disappointing to get the loss but our team improved every quarter.”

One of the highlights of the match was Bella’s lunging tackle on the wing to bring down her speedy opponent. 

It brought the Mackay crowd to their feet and Bella said it was a rush of adrenaline which helped her to execute the tackle and win a free kick.

“I just wanted to catch her really,” Bella laughed. 

“I was just letting the legs go and stuck my arm out and was just hoping to pull her in and it worked out I guess.”

The SUNS were quick to get around to the supporters after the game, and Bella said she could see firsthand how much the football environment has changed in Mackay.

“When I was growing up women’s footy was only just starting here and (then) AFLW started but Mackay was just catching up because we’re out rural in a way,” Bella said.

“But just seeing it this afternoon with the little girls and even boys coming up to you and saying they’re playing junior footy at the moment, it’s really exciting to see all the young ones coming through and even the women’s comp here is taking off.” 

Gold Coast are yet to taste victory in the QW Winter Series, but Bella said it was about much more than winning for the fledgling SUNS. 

“Compared to last game we’re just stepping up each time,” she said. 

“We’re still a very new team, we still have a lot to get to know about each other. 

“But we’re banding together really well so I’m really looking forward to over the next couple of weeks going back to training and improving on some stuff to go out there and hopefully get a win.” 

The final game of the QW Winter Series is on July 13 at the Gabba against the Brisbane Lions, before the two teams come together to form a Queensland representative team to take on WA on July 20.