TAC Cup Girls preview: Eastern Ranges

SPEED and height are the two weapons Eastern Ranges’ female talent manager Jessie Mulholland hopes her club’s TAC Cup Girls’ side can utilise ahead of the 2018 season.

Almost 50 per cent of the Ranges’ squad is comprised of players 170cm or more, while also having a number of electric runners to be on-hand to assist when the ball hits the deck.

“We’re a very tall team,” she said. “We’ve probably got more talls than more shorts, so I definitely think the top-agers and the girls who can progress with their football career, will definitely shine. “We also have a few that have that ability to crumb and get off the ball. “We have to make sure we utilise our talls.”

Mulholland said with a number of players crossing over from other sports, coaches have been working hard to educate the players on safety during a match.

“A massive thing for me is making sure we protect ourselves and not go in head first,” she said. “A massive thing about female football is they have no idea how to protect themselves, so we’ve definitely been working towards that, so we’re protecting ourselves, as well as when we tackle, we’re protecting the other girls as well.”

Helping with the development of the squad is a beefed up coaching panel, including a current AFLW player.

“We’ve got three line coaches and a head coach,” Mulholland said. “We’ve also brought in two brand new development coaches that we didn’t have last year. “We’ve also teamed up with Laura Attard who’s an AFLW Carlton player and she’s a specialist mentoring coach, so she’s got a special group who are the draftables who she looks after in that mental role, so they know if that’s where they want to be, this is X, Y, Z, how to get there.”

A number of the players were able to test themselves against now-AFLW players in the TAC Cup Girls last season, and the reality is setting in that an elite pathway is available.

“I think the girls have that aspiration to go further,” Mulholland said. “Those girls can definitely say ‘that’s where I was’ or ‘that’s where I will be this year’, and I can be a Chloe Molloy next year, definitely.”

Eastern Ranges have a number of outstanding players who Mulholland is excited to see perform at TAC Cup level. She said a competitive match against one of the highly regarded sides in Calder Cannons recently gave the players plenty of excitement for the season ahead. Mulholland said there were a couple of names to keep an eye out for as the season progressed.

Mikala Cann – she has never played football in her life and she’s definitely going to be a utility player [to watch],” Mulholland said. “She can run out of that 50 insanely. “She played midfield on the weekend [vs. Calder two weekends ago] and the way she can get that ball out of the centre square will be incredible to watch for somebody that has no idea. “Basically we have to teach her the rules from scratch.”

Mulholland said AFLW Academy player Emerson Woods was another one to keep an eye on, because of her overhead marking ability and versatility to play inside or outside midfield.

“We do have a few younger girls in the TAC Cup that we see could be pretty special and they’ve still got a few years with us,” Mulholland said. “But then you look at the futures squad we’ve got as well, they’re also learning off the top-age girls as well, so they’ve also got that experience on-hand for them, as well as coaches. “It’s really exciting to see they’ve got three or four more years with us to see where they could go.”

Mulholland herself is new to the Ranges’ program, crossing over after doing work with the premiership-winning Calder Cannons last season. Hailing from Woolongong in New South Wales, Mulholland worked at AFL NSW/ACT, and also volunteered as a president for the women’s club which was founded in the town. A shoulder reconstruction halted her personal career, but did not stunt her passion for women’s footy, making the trek down to Victoria to take up a role at the AFL Victoria head office in the Auskick space.

“At the moment I dual role with the Eastern Ranges and I’ve also got management in the eastern region of women’s football,” Mulholland said. “I was with the Calder Cannons last year, so my focus was on those girls. “We obviously beat Eastern out there, and while we did beat them, I had no idea of any of the girls coming through the programs which was in place last year.”

Despite not having the inside knowledge heading into the club this season, Mulholland said the transition was enjoyable and she was “absolutely loving it” at the Ranges.

“I think the way that things were last year, there are a lot of things to improve on, so it’s just making sure the girls are benefiting from our program, as well as the coaches,” she said. “We’ve introduced a few more coaches and staff in the wellbeing and the strength and conditioning side, so just making sure those girls are looked after on and off the field, as well as in the events. “We had a camp which they never had last year, to be able to make sure bonding happened prior to the season, rather than during it. “[It’s all about] making those connections with the girls and making sure if they have a career aspect that they want to work towards, I’m there for them and to help them.”

As for the season expectations, like many TAC Cup Girls’ clubs, Mulholland said the focus was on development, rather than results.

“I think it is [individual development],” she said. “A lot of the things we look at, we see as a team. “How we gel together as well as making sure that individuals are where they need to be, obviously the top-agers that potentially could be draftable are at their peak and are as elite as they can be to make sure they get picked up.”

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