A COMPETITION-topping number of draftees and a five-game winning streak to finish the year, it’s fair to say the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels ran out the second TAC Cup Girls season strongly. The Rebels’ Female Talent Manager, Krista Woodroffe said considering the side’s reduced contact hours compared to other clubs in the competition, she was pleased with how well they bonded and gelled towards the end of the season.
“I suppose in a whole we had a really successful season considering being a very country club and only having touching base with each girl once a week, which is quite different to a lot of the other clubs in the under 18 competition so I think the end of our season proved to show that the girls were gelling really well,” she said. “I think we won six out of the last seven rounds, so that was really pleasing and then just to finish off the year having the girls do their presentation nights and the best and fairest and everything like that. “Then roll into community football, hopefully most of them did. “Then continue on with their footy there so at the end of the year we could review where they were at, and on the most part, invite back the majority of the players.”
Woodroffe praised the four girls drafted into the AFL Women’s competition – Georgia Clarke, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Rene Caris and Lauren Butler – for their dedication to themselves and the team.
“It’s credit to those girls,” she said. “We don’t get them drafted, they get themselves drafted so that’s what we’ve got to remember, we just give them the extra little bits and pieces to help them along the way whether that’s education on how to present themselves when they have AFL club interviews and gameday preparations and those sorts of things. “I think from our perspective that’s something that we’re learning a little bit more and find those talented girls early so we can start to give them tools to give them the better opportunity to get drafted. “Four out of our 35 girls is pretty unbelievable, especially from our region. “Three of those girls going to one club is really exciting and those girls are doing a really good job, and three have had their debuts. “We’re still awaiting Rene Caris for her debut with Geelong, but definitely we’re excited for the future.”
While the girls had strong indication they would be drafted on draft day, Woodroffe said the club had tempered expectations because of the nature of the draft system.
“It does and it doesn’t (make it easier knowing you’re likely to be taken) because there was a considerable amount of girls there that potentially thought they were getting drafted and didn’t get drafted,” she said. “We explained to the girls although we’ve had really good contact with these clubs, you’ve had good contact with these clubs, it’s never 100 per cent certainly because with the draft as you know, a club could pick up a midfielder that they really want and then that changes the whole dynamic of how they draft players, so I think all the girls had a fair idea they might have been drafted but the nerves were there on draft day. “I think we were just really, really pleased and excited and they actually got picked up in the end.”
Woodroffe was also pleased the drafted players chose to test themselves at a higher level in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition following the conclusion of the TAC Cup and AFL Women’s competition.
“It’s a really good opportunity that after Rebels they have the ability to go into the VFLW program, your Vic Country and that, it all sort of overlaps so I think most of the girls got three to five games in the VFL system,” she said. “But for them it’s more about being in the presence of other girls that are potentially going to get drafted and from a Geelong perspective, I suppose playing with them as well, it’s just that eliteness in the way that they train and recover, and the resources that they have that we don’t necessarily have at Under-18 level with the Rebels. “It is really important they get that opportunity to actually see what it’s all about behind the scenes.”
The team seems to be more prepared for season 2019’s opening match this weekend compared to 12 months earlier, and Woodroffe hopes this might spark a change of fortune.
“We had a few more sessions in the pre-season,” she said. “Usually we start late November but this year we were able to start a bit earlier which is good so we’ve had 10 or 12 weeks with the girls and we’ve just finalised our squads. Our 35 main squad and 15 Futures that will play this year. “It’s been really good, the girls have taken to the conditioning and strength programs really well and their skill execution has improved considerably as well too, so we’re probably 3-4 weeks ahead of last year, which hopefully means instead of sparking Round 5 onwards, hopefully from Round 1 the girls should have a bit of good cohesion I suppose on the ground.”
Sophie Molan has emerged as one of the Rebels’ top draft prospects in 2019, and Woodroffe said the club is keen to build on her already strong development.
“Sophie’s presenting really well in terms of her football ability, but also her leadership and other areas of football so we’re definitely looking to developing her further on and off the field for this year given that the potential draft prospects are there,” she said. “We do have a handful of other girls that have that potential, it’s just a matter of whether they want to put their best forward, and how we can get them to the point where your Soph Van De Heuvels and Georgia Clarkes were last year.”
Another player to keep an eye on in season 2019 is Ella Wood. The midfielder/forward is a smart and classy user in the forward half and while her season was ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury, she is fit and ready to go for Round 1.
“Ella Wood, one of our midfield/small forwards, she hurt her shoulder at the end of last year, which that was the last four rounds that she missed I think,” Woodroffe said. “Then she missed an opportunity with Vic Country because of the injury, so I have no doubt that she has all the potential in the world, so it’s just a matter of us nurturing that and hopefully getting her through the season uninjured and putting her best foot forward to the potential of being selected as well.”
The Rebels are a different looking side to 12 months earlier, but Woodroffe believes the players are as fit as ever and have bought into the off-season training regime.
“I feel in comparison to last year, we had a handful of really top talent as you know with the girls that got drafted,” she said. “The consistency was there throughout the rest of the list. “We’ve got a lot of really good bottom-agers this year, so just getting them to that Under-18 level will be the big thing for us.” We’ve probably got a good spread of talent in terms of their positional abilities and height and size and everything. “I feel this year in terms of our fitness, the girls we have involved in the program have really worked hard in the conditioning components of the pre-season so I think that will put us in pretty good stead for the season.”
Woodroffe said while the group might be different, the coaching philosophy remained the same – work to the players’ strengths and give them the best opportunity to get drafted.
“I suppose within our playing group there’s no particular coaching style,” she said. “Our philosophy is to bring along the players as best we can and develop them as footballers and as leaders. “In terms of gamestyle, we just let them do what they do. “If they run really hard and fast and kick the footy as far as they can, then hopefully we get a goal out of it. In terms of our football philosophy, it’s about presenting those players as best we can and hopefully from that we win some games.”
The Rebels head into the season with one pre-season match under their belt, playing off against the Falcons in scorching heat – perfect for the game on the weekend where they will face similarly high temperatures. Woodroffe said it was a good hitout against the reigning premiers who are considered the “benchmark” of the competition.
“They’re our benchmark, so I think it’s really important to play games against those benchmark teams so that you can really see where you’re at,” she said. “It was a really hot day last Saturday and for the girls’ first real hitout, we were really pleased with how they went about their footy and in the end the girls were really happy with their performance as well. “Everything we’re training them in terms of their key attributes, they were starting to put into practice, so now it’s just refining their skills and refining the opportunities on gameday to help open the game with other clubs.”
Woodroffe said while the Rebels want to start the season stronger and win more games overall, the ultimate goal was individual development to try and assist as many players as possible get as far as they could in their football careers.
“I think every club wants to win some games,” Woodroffe said. “Ultimately we want the girls to continue to improve and feel confident with where they’re at. “We’d be happy with winning a few games if not, more than last year. “More so in terms of their development, from the practice matches and intraclub games, if over the course of the next nine weeks we see a high level of improvement as a team and as individuals, I think that’s most important thing for us. “Just creating that professional environment, so that’s what we want to give the girls and give them the ability and start to grow as individuals in the game.”
GWV Rebels take on Bendigo Pioneers on Saturday at RAMS Arena in the opening round of the Under 18 Girls season.