TAC Cup Girls preview: Geelong Falcons

THE Geelong Falcons impressed in the 2017 TAC Cup Girls season, only dropping one game for the year. This loss came in round four, when they fell just two points short of the Murray Bushrangers, who were one of only two undefeated teams last year. But just a week later in round five, the Falcons secured their biggest win of the year, showing their ability to fight back after a loss.

Geelong’s stellar 2017 was topped off with three players making their way into the 2017 TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year. Lucy McEvoy slotted into the back pocket as a bottom-ager, and is in the AFLW Academy. Teammate Olivia Purcell was named in the team’s midfield, while exciting prospect, Denby Taylor was a part of the interchange bench. Purcell and Taylor also feature in the AFLW Academy, and are in the level two squad, meaning that they are among the best prospects for the next AFLW National draft.

Although female talent manager Katie Geerings admits that it would be nice to go through 2018 undefeated, she and the coaches are more focused on player development.

“Our coach (Jason Armistead) is about the girls growing and developing, and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to lose a game, because sometimes you learn more from losing a game than you do from winning,” she said. “Sometimes I think going through undefeated isn’t such a great thing because then they’re (the players) probably going to think they’re at a pretty great level and they don’t need to keep improving.”

After falling agonisingly short against the Bushrangers by two points last year, Geerings knows the girls have become more resilient, and is hopeful that the girls can continue to learn lessons from these tough losses.

“It (the loss) was a great lesson for the girls to learn because it was just that tiny error that was made that let the other team score, and there wasn’t enough time to get it back,” Geerings said. “It’s (losing the game) is a hard lesson to learn, but sometimes it’s a good one.”

The 50 girls in the squad have began their 2018 campaign by completing intense fitness programs and challenging training sessions, all fighting for that ultimate goal to play in front of thousands of fans on the big stage. Geerings drew upon on a Reach Foundation session last year, where the girls were asked if they aspire to play AFLW.

“All 30 of them put their hand up,” Geerings said, reflecting on a memorable moment for her at the club.

Now with 20 more girls in the squad than last year, Geerings admits that it is getting even harder to separate the first-tier players from those in the middle-tier category.

“Last year, I feel there were five or so that were our gun players, and then there were quite a few middle-bands and quite a few that were scraping in,” she said. “This year, there’s so many more up the top, and there are barely any that I’d say are just scraping in.”

One of these top players is Nina Morrison, who impressed Geerings at the Falcons’ talent search day last year. The Geelong Grammar school captain is naturally athletic, and significantly improved her football skills at the AFL Academy camp in Darwin. Morrison juggles year 12 studies, and compulsory sport at her school, but is still rated as a hard-working draft prospect by her talent manager.

Another one to keep an eye out for is Sophie Walmsley, who hails from an athletics background. Walmsley only began playing football last year, but has already impressed with her excellent running. The Newton and Chilwell prospect is certainly one that could turn heads, and dominate in a running team that likes to utilise the space around ground.

A new addition to the team is Justina Dhamarraandji, who has made the move down from the Northern Territory to represent the Geelong Falcons in 2018. Dhamarraandji grew up playing footy barefoot in the red dust of her hometown, but is up for the challenge of playing in one of the most successful football regions in the country.

The Falcons will look to 2018 as an opportunity to showcase the region’s best young female talent in front of recruiters and fans. They begin their season against Sandringham Dragons on Saturday, before meeting the GWV Rebels on March 18.

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