Tag: aflwu18s feature

Newcomer Dolan enjoys strong debut season in SANFLW

CHARLOTTE Dolan only started playing Australian rules football a few years ago, and played her first South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s match this year. Running out for Woodville-West Torrens Eagles, Dolan was involved in the club’s inaugural win back in Round 4, marking a really memorable debut for the teenager.

Dolan said she was thrilled to win on debut, but had not thought about being the club’s first win when it happened, just soaking up the moment in a great team effort rather than being a lucky charm of sorts.

“Yeah wow nah I thought everyone played really well that game,” Dolan said. “I was playing off the wing and onball for a part of it and the pressure was just really high which made it successful. “I don’t know what to say, I’m good luck?”

Whilst the game’s result had Dolan on a high, the uncertainty around the season – that would eventuate not long after – put her new found senior career on hold. Despite this she used the COVID-19 pandemic postponement as a way to improve her overall game to hit the ground running when it restarted in June.

“It was a really gut-dropping feeling,” Dolan said. “I was at the game on the Friday night (before her debut) I think it was, and we didn’t even know if the game was going to go ahead, and everyone was like ‘they might be cancelling the game’ because of COVID and stuff. “I was like ‘oh no’ but finding out out the week after the next game against Westies had been cancelled and I was like ‘you’re kidding? I finally made my way into the side’. “But I guess it gave me that break to push harder, train a bit more, get a bit fitter again and keep working on my skills.”

As mentioned above, Dolan was not always a footballer, instead she came from a a soccer and surf lifesaving background. She reached state representation in both those sports, but was a chance chat with friends that got the ball rolling for a girls football team at SMOSH West Lakes.

“I remember it was a friend of ours who was highly involved in football around at SMOSH West Lakes and we were like ‘let’s get a girls team going’ and the parents weren’t too sure about it obviously but we thought we might as well give it a crack and it was like something new,” Dolan said. “At the time it wasn’t really a big thing, and were like ‘oh this could be cool, let’s get involved and see what happens’.”

From there it grew, as Dolan was starting effectively from scratch, having only brought across a competitive nature and being involved in a team environment from her other two sports. Prior to the Eagles having a team entered in the SANFL Women’s, Dolan was initially in the Glenelg pathway before her zone changed to Woodville-West Torrens and played a couple of Under 17s matches there prior to progressing into the senior team.

That debut came in the famed Round 4 win, and aside from the climate at the time and uncertainty that came with it, Dolan had her own natural nerves heading into the game against senior opponents.

“My first game I was pretty scared going out there against everyone older,” Dolan said. “It was a bit nerve wracking but I haven’t struggled too much I don’t think. “Just having confidence in myself is just the main thing. “I can do this.”

Dolan gained confidence over time and was included in the State Under 18s Academy this year which further enhanced her self-belief and love for the sport.

That (State Academy) was good, it started off really well,” Dolan said. “Every weekend we’d have a training on the Sunday morning and that was good to have as different to the other trainings were were doing at our clubs and it was good to have another training. “It was different coaches and you’ve also got to hang out with the other girls from other teams which was good.”

After collecting the wooden spoon in 2019, the Eagles showed great development in 2020, picking up two wins and as Dolan pointed out, were a lot more competitive across the board.

I guess you look at it as a learning curve obviously and you can see where things went right and things went wrong,” Dolan said. “It’s not like we were far off getting wins throughout the season. “The games were usually pretty close, they weren’t smashings aside the game against North.”

Dolan is a natural onballer from the time she spent at junior level, but began running around on a wing and increasing her versatility with the Eagles. Her fitness base gained from her other sports allowed Dolan to run out full games and often mentally work over opponents.

I’m naturally more of a sweeper, defensive player, midfielder,” Dolan said. “Playing centre on the ball and playing in my first game off the wing and I played that natural on the 45 and then behind the play and that suited me pretty well. “But definitely when I played school footy for example, I’ll play onball and I prefer more of that onball than a wing.”

Dolan stopped playing soccer when she took up Australian rules football, but unlike many top-age hopefuls, she had initially quit footy as well until she found the hunger to run around again.

“I stopped playing soccer three or four years ago to focus on footy and then do surf lifesaving on the side as a bit of fun and fitness,” Dolan said. “I quit footy last year actually and then I got really bored watching my brothers and my sister play so thought I’d play again and that’s when I got picked up. “I did surf lifesaving, I would train for that.”

Despite being one of the fittest going around, Dolan still aims to build her fitness even greater, as well as improve her acceleration to be able to take the game on even more and apply increased defensive pressure to her opponents. As for her goal, while the All-Stars game did not go as she had hoped, Dolan is still eyeing off a future at the elite level at some stage.

“It would be pretty awesome to make an AFLW side,” Dolan said. “For the draft this year, it was just a bit unfortunate the game on Friday night (All-Stars game). “I wasn’t too happy with how it played out but I guess not the end of the world and more bigger and brighter things to come.”

Picture: Karley J Photography

Lifelong dream close to realisation for determined Smith

IN a couple of weeks, passionate footy fan Tyanna Smith is set to live out a lifelong dream of reaching the elite level. The talented midfielder who starred for Dandenong Stingrays and Vic Country over the past few years is among the top prospects heading into this year’s 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, but her road to the top was not completely smooth sailing.

The former basketballer had to turn away from football for a period of time due to the lack of options and instead focus on hoops rather than goals. The moment the AFL Women’s pathway opened up, Smith’s dream was alive once again.

“I started playing footy when I was quite young,” Smith said. “I kind of grew up around it when I was younger and then played two years of Auskick and then went on to play one year of Under 9s with the boys. “Then I stopped playing after that, played basketball for about six years and didn’t play any footy.

“Then about four years ago I think I joined our local Beaconsfield team again in the Under 18 girls. “I’ve been playing there for four years and then from then went up in the ranks, playing Stingrays this is my fourth season. “Then I was lucky enough to get chosen for the Under 16s Vic Country team and then Under 18s Vic Country.”

Whilst meeting plenty of friends on the court – some she has also shared the football field with – Smith knew her calling was always Australian rules and she was never going to turn down the opportunity to play at the highest level.

“Obviously I went to play basketball because there wasn’t any opportunities for girls to play AFL at that time,” Smith said. “I kind of aimed to play basketball and then footy opened back up and ever since I was a kid I wanted to play AFL professionally. “I just knew as soon as that opened back up that it was definitely what I wanted to do.”

Juggling multiple sports can often be a challenge for any aspiring athlete, but Smith said there were only a couple of years where the spots crossed paths.

“I think I only played two years when I was playing both,” she said. “I had to give up representative basketball so I just played domestic for a couple of years as well as footy. “That was pretty tough, I’d go from a footy game then I’d go to a basketball game within the same day. “It was definitely full on, but it was really fun. It was definitely worth it.”

Smith said she was thankful for her journey to-date, having travelled through the more traditional pathway once she returned to football. She transitioned from local footy at Beaconsfield to the Stingrays and then Country. While she concedes she is not the loudest player on-field, past leaders at the Stingrays helped her develop more of a voice and guide the younger players.

When you start off young, your’e a bit intimidated by the older girls but we had some great leaders and role models in the team when I was younger and I think that really helped me this year like you said we had a lot of younger girls,” Smith said. “Even though I’m not the loudest or most outspoken person, I still chose to be as much of a leader on the field and a role model for the younger girls as much as I could.”

The journey through the pathway led Smith to represent Country up in Queensland where she starred as a middle-ager for her state on grounds such as Metricon Stadium.

“Yeah that was a really, really good experience,” Smith said. “We had a great bunch of girls and we really bonded as a team up there and it was really cool to play on Metricon and stadiums like the AFL plays on. “It was really professional and a really cool experience.”

Her performance as a 16-year-old in the NAB League and Under 16 Championships led to her being named in in the AFL Women’s National Academy – a feat that “shocked” the teenager – and backed it up by retaining her spot in her top-age year.

“That was really cool actually,” Smith said. “I was in it bottom-age and top-age so think when I was bottom-age I was pretty shocked actually that I made that, but it was really cool to go through that for two years and do that at the highest level and they have the best people there. “It was just a really great bunch of girls aiming towards the same thing.”

Smith is currently juggling a part-time job at Kmart, her Year 12 studies and her footy, of which the latter has been a big part of her life the last few years. She said she finds it “fun” keeping herself busy rather than not doing anything. With big expectations on herself this year, Smith said she takes it all in her stride and uses football as a motivation to get better in every possible way.

“Yeah definitely I would say my life is very footy-orientated,” Smith said. “But I think that I can switch off quite well and pretty easy with that stuff. “It doesn’t stress me out too much and I think other things footy, like watching footy, training those sort of things, it just sort of fuels me in a good way.”

Smith has never been short of on-field and off-field inspirations in her time, with both her family and trailblazers of the women’s game among those she looks up to. Not only has she been a keen observer of the AFL Women’s since its inception in 2017, but has enjoyed watching past Eagles’ teammates rise through the ranks.

“Probably my biggest inspiration are my parents,” Smith said. “I think everything they do for me has just helped get me to where I am today.

“When it (AFL Women’s) first started, I was a massive fan of those pioneer girls so Daisy Pearce, Katie Brennan, those first ones. Also the most recent times probably Monique Conti and there’s been a couple of girls from my local club in Tyla Hanks and Georgia Gee who got drafted so I think that’s really cool to get to play with role models who have been drafted.”

Her local footy and NAB League footy collided a couple of times, playing at Holm Park in Beaconsfield, a ground the Eagles and Stingrays midfielder is very familiar with over the past few years.

“Our (Stingrays) first game was there as our home game which was pretty cool,” Smith said. “That’s my local club’s home ground as well so I know the ground pretty well which helps. “But yeah it was really cool to be able to play Stingrays footy on that ground. “Obviously my family could get to that because it was close, so it was really cool.”

It was on that ground where she kicked a miraculous goal from the pocket in Round 1 this year against Eastern Ranges. With not much angle and pressure all around her, the talented leader got ball to boot and put through a contender for goal of the year. When asked the thought process for kicking a big-time goal like that, Smith said it was “probably mostly instinct”.

“At the end of the day when it’s in the balance and it’s quite tight at that stage,” she said. “I knew that as soon as I had the ball in my hands I just had to make the most of my opportunity and soon as I saw the goals open up I thought that I have to do this for my team and thankfully it paid off.”

Possessing elite speed and footy IQ, Smith has been one of the most consistent players in terms of overall game, with very few weaknesses. But that has not stopped her wanting to improve all aspects of her game, but one area in particular has been a focus.

“I think a big thing for me is contested marking,” Smith said. “I think that’s one thing that can definitely set the game apart with who can take a big contested mark. “I think that’s really valuable so really trying to work on upper body strength and stuff like that to make it happen.”

The COVID-19 break has not been ideal for any Victorian footballers, unable to get out on the park, but for Smith, it has been a chance to work on those areas and still have the chance to build her fundamentals further.

“I think I’ve taken the time we’ve had off to improve those sort of things and doing stuff that I probably wouldn’t get to do at training as a group,” Smith said. “A lot of strength and gym work as well. “Me and dad go down to the footy oval and mum as well, and we do a lot of skill work stuff as well which has really helped.”

Looking forward, the likely high draft pick has her sights set exactly where she has had them for most of her life – the AFL Women’s Draft – but she remains grounded and focused, setting little goals at a time.

“I probably don’t try to look too far into the future, I just try to stay in the moment and set little goals that are achievable with a short amount of time” Smith said. “Then look to the next thing, I don’t try to look too far into the future and set massive goals.”

Watch out for one of the next big stars coming through the ranks after a sensational body of work throughout her junior football career.

Improved Georgostathis backs up sensational bottom-age year

IT is hard to imagine that a player who won their club’s best and fairest award in their bottom-age year could surprise you in their top-age one, but for Western Jets’ captain Elisabeth Georgostathis, she has gone to another level in 2019. Her numbers, influence, opportunities and testing show just that, with the tireless midfielder turned utility leaving no stone unturned in her goal to reach the AFL Women’s competition. But her journey all began down at St Albans.

“I saw my brothers playing, I started at a local club at East Keilor but they didn’t have enough girls,” Georgostathis said. “One of the coaches told me to come down to St Albans, started with them, changed to Spurs and then just got picked up by the Western Jets and started playing that.”

For Georgostathis, she could not have landed in a better place, praising the Jets for their development and social atmosphere around the club.

“It’s been so good,” she said. “Western Jets and just local, they’re both great experiences and I’ve loved playing with both of them, making new friends and learning new skills, it’s been really good.”

When the tough inside midfielder with the tackling presence was named the 2017 Western Jets Best and Fairest winner, she could hardly believe it herself.

“It was really good,” Georgostathis said. “Like I was surprised because we’ve got a lot of good girls in our team and it was just amazing.”

From there, she was named captain by her peers, an opportunity she said she was “grateful” for, and “really happy” that she was chosen as their leader. When you understand her mindset and strengths, it is no surprise she is a natural-born leader. When asked what she prided her game on, it was pretty simple.

“Just run hard and work hard, put all my effort in the whole game,” Georgostathis said. “If I get tired I know I can swap, go on the bench, have my rest and come back on hard and more determined.”

If there was a clear improvement for Georgostathis in 2019, it was to improve her kicking, which she admitted at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day was a real focus.

“(I want to improve) my kicking on the run,” she said. “Sometimes it just goes a bit off target and just trying to pinpoint that kick.”

At the same event, Georgostathis was just hoping to be picked up by a Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) side and put her best foot forward to play in the AFL Women’s competition next year. She ticked the first box, playing for Western Bulldogs and having a key role at half-forward and through the midfield on the pressure-cooker stage of finals. Now the second box is waiting to be ticked.

After a sensational season where she was one of Vic Metro’s best at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships – having been named emergency the year before – Georgostathis added more strings to her bow than just about any player, becoming a real standout off half-back for the Jets, before spending time forward for the Bulldogs. Now with the AFL Women’s Draft just a couple of weeks away, the tenacious onballer could be edging ever so close to her dream of playing at the elite level.