WHOLESALE changes have hit the NAB League ahead of season 2021, no less at the Western Jets where a turnover of staff and players alike has the region taking a “gentle approach” to the upcoming girls campaign, according to operations coordinator Alexandra Agrotis.
The former female talent coordinator is now overseeing both the boys and girls programs in support of Regional Talent Operations Lead Luke Williams, and said players are getting back to competitive action “at their own pace”.
“We did have a complete turnover of staff in terms of coaches and some support staff as well,” Agrotis said. “We just took a really gentle approach I suppose, inviting the girls down to training and just getting (them) used to seeing each other again.
“It’s really about getting their confidence back to socialise with new people and old people and there was definitely no pressure to try and get girls to come down.
“We made it a really warm, welcoming and inclusive environment with the support of our new wellbeing coordinator Jack Rhodes, who has done a fantastic job as well of trying to rally the girls together. “The challenges that everyone has faced have been really difficult so we didn’t want to put any pressure on anyone, and just getting them to go at their own pace was our philosophy.”
Having returned for preseason under COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, Jets staff were “excited” to see what their troops could do in larger groups this year. With limited time before season proper, many NAB League sides have adopted plenty of match simulation practice to ready players for their first official outings in almost 11 months.
Amid sweltering conditions last Sunday, the Jets hit Arden Street for an intraclub hit-out. Agrotis says the girls showed “some promising signs” while shaking off the cobwebs and learning a new game style.
“(There was) a little bit of rust to work out but Robbie (Chancellor) and the coaches are doing a great job at getting them to understand a new gamestyle and structure,” she said. “It was really about giving them the freedom to play, which is what we did on Sunday and threw the magnets around just to give them a bit of a taste all over the field.
“The intraclub was a really great opportunity to see where we’re at competitively, especially given at training we’ve been quite restricted with COVID policies. ” We got to see what they could do in much larger groups and it was really exciting to see.”
A running theme throughout each region of late has been the younger generation of talent emerging ahead of time, something which is hardly different on the Western side of town. Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham are just a couple of under-age players who impresses as early as last season, impacting on the Under 18 competition against players sometimes three years their senior.
That is not to say the Jets are not also high on their top and over-ager talent eligible to be drafted in 2021, with a number of prospects looking to stamp their elite level credentials.
“I think there’s a real mix (between the age groups),” Agrotis said. “Not taking anything away from the top-age girls – I think with those girls if they put their minds to it, they apply themselves, and they have a really good year then anything is possible – but I am really excited about the young crop of girls.
“We have quite a few coming through and we’re starting to see now that the girls in that younger group have probably played Auskick from pretty much when they could first walk, so that’s what’s really exciting.
“I hate singling them out… but Charlotte and Mon (are) both really important and exciting players for us. “I also really like Marli Klaumanns-Moller, who is one of our top-age girls. She’s currently training with North VFLW as well Nikita Wright, another top-age girl is currently training with the Western Bulldogs VFLW side. “They’re both really exciting prospects.
“Then there’s anther crop of players. Laura Elliot (2004-birth) I think is really exciting – she’s really tall, a strong overhead mark and kicks truly; Caitlin Sargent as well, who is capable of much more than I think she’s aware of; Trinity Skenderis, she shows really great leadership on and off the field; and Leah Spargo, who’s coming back from an ACL, she showed really good signs in her first hit-out at our Sunday intraclub. “I think those are some really key players to watch.”
Charged with binding the group back together after such a sustained period away from the program are the coaches and support staff, whom Agrotis gave a particularly glowing review of.
“Robbie’s been supported by four really fantastic assistant coaches,” she said. “They’ve really pulled together with not much notice at all to form a really tight-knit coaching group and I’m just really proud of their efforts to get both the boys and the girls on the track. “It’s going to be quite a challenge with them overseeing both programs but I think they’ve done a fantastic job so far. “Luke Williams as well, who’s really our captain steering the ship through this very different season. “I really want to thank all those guys for all their effort and input so far.”
The Jets’ next point of call will be at the NAB League preseason testing event on Sunday, just a week before they begin their 2021 NAB League Girls campaign.