Belief and resilience the key to Falcons’ turnaround: Armistead

BELIEF in the team’s system and the girls’ ability to rise up when challenged were the key reasons behind the Geelong Falcons’ come-from-behind win according to coach Jason Armistead.

The Falcons found themselves goalless at half-time, trailing by 13 points to the Northern Knights, who had made the most of their opportunities through two second quarter goals. At half-time, the mood in the rooms was relatively calm, and the message was straight forward from the coaching group – stick to the plan and the tide will turn.

“We weren’t too bad (with nerves) as a coaching group,” Armistead said. “The message at half-time was mainly around we just need to turn it back around our way and when it does turn back around our way, it will happen and just to have belief that what we’ve done all year has worked, so that was pretty much the message. “If it hadn’t have happened in the third quarter then obviously I would have been pretty nervous, but the way they responded in the third quarter was amazing.”

Armistead praised the resilience of his players to stand up in crucial moments, as they had done all year. He shuffled the magnets sending his two AFLW Academy defenders up the ground, with captain Lucy McEvoy moving forward, and Denby Taylor playing off a wing. The moves were not pre-planned according to the coach, and he said whilst they worked, it was a whole team effort to turn the deficit into a victory.

“Nah it wasn’t pre-planned,” he said. “We weren’t planning on having to make that many moves, but as much as the moves worked, I think the girls also stood up to the challenge as well. “So overall as a group, we probably let us down for about 10 minutes in that second quarter a little bit, but our group’s been awesome to rising to the challenge all year, and that’s what they did in that third quarter. “I felt like we were having a little bit of control, it just wasn’t falling our way a little bit. One of our messages at half-time was eventually if we keep at it, it will turn our way and I suppose that’s what happened. If you keep persisting, eventually it will go your way and that’s kind of what happened.”

Armistead said he was just “really excited and happy” for everyone involved in the Falcons’ program and that the smile on everyone’s faces in the rooms post-game was reward in itself. He said it was great to win and have the validation the Falcons were best side in 2018.

“That’s pretty much it at the end of the day (reward for effort),”he said. “It doesn’t really matter what happens during the season. “If you win the grand final, it’s just that final reward just to validate you were the best side. “If we hadn’t have won, it would have obviously been a little disappointing for us, but it validates that we probably were the best side for the season.”

Armistead said everyone had noticed the level of intensity had risen compared to the shorter five-game season last year and the quality of every side had improved out of sight.

“The competition overall is so much stronger,” he said. “The ball movement of all the teams is so much improved and it’s just a credit that’s been involved with it in the last two years, coaches and staff of all the different clubs. “Even the stuff we do at training, it’s really we’re just doing senior football drills and the girls understanding of the game now is just improved out of sight. “It’s going to be amazing in a couple of years time.”

Geelong Falcons will bid farewell to a number of top-agers this season including AFLW Academy members Olivia Purcell, Nina Morrison and Taylor, but Armistead is confident the future is bright with a number of talented bottom-agers coming through the ranks.

“Yeah [I’m] definitely [impressed with the quality],” he said. “Luka Lesosky-Hay is another one who is the same age as Lucy (McEvoy, captain) and she was enormous today (Saturday). “Abbey Chapman our full-back has still got another year as well, and Renee (Tierney) our full-forward still has two more years and obviously there’s other players around that as well, and Northern have got a heap of girls in that bottom-age bracket as well, so the challenge is to try and stay ahead of everyone else that is coming as well. “I know just even in the local competitions just watching over the last four or five weeks that there’s other girls out there we haven’t really found yet that you just think ‘wow, she can play as well’ so yeah we’re pretty confident that over the next couple of years the Geelong region will still have some good talent coming through.”

For the Falcons players, many will go separate ways whether it is playing for Vic Country at the National AFLW Under 18 Championships, for a Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side, or just local football. Armistead said he hoped to see a number of Falcons players trying to cut their teeth at senior level.

“We probably need to sit down and work out what we are going to do (with the players),” he said. “We’ve got seven in the Vic Country so that will keep them going a little bit, but there’s also a few of the other girls just behind that, that might hopefully look at going down to Geelong and train with their VFL. “It might just be one day a week or whatever, but potentially they might join that list as well in the VFL. “I think they’ve still got 10 spots to put TAC Cup Girls on. “I hope that Sachi DeGiacomi, the one who was unlucky to miss out on Vic Country … I think she can step into the VFLW straight away. “That will be the opportunities we are looking for our girls.”

With an emphasis on the future, Armistead and the rest of the Geelong Falcons team will bask in the premiership glory following a perfect, undefeated season.

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