Tag: bruce dawes

Finals on the agenda for Sturt in 2021

WHILE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s has been a fantastic initiative for all eight SANFL clubs to be involved in, some sides have had more on-field success than others so far. In Sturt’s three years playing in the SANFL Women’s League, they are yet to make a finals appearance. Changing this record is high on the agenda of Sturt’s senior women’s coach Bruce Dawes in 2021, particularly following their capitulation after returning from the COVID-19 break last season.

“Pre-COVID, we were actually pretty happy with the way we were tracking,” Dawes said. “We were 2-2 at that stage and felt the girls were making pretty good improvements. Having that break really interrupted us. Some girls chose not to come back post-COVID because work and different things changed for them, so after that we certainly didn’t play the football we were hoping to play.”

Sturt did not claim another victory for the 2020 season, concluding the year with two wins, seven losses, one draw and the lowest percentage in the competition, 25.04. This put them in sixth position, just one point ahead of bottom two clubs Woodville-West Torrens and Central District.

“Overall, we were disappointed with the season, no doubt about it,” Dawes said. “You always want to play finals, but I think we’re moving in the right direction now.”

Over the summer period, Dawes has put an emphasis on improving his players’ fitness levels, along with some other key areas of SANFLW football.

“Preseason’s been really good, one thing we felt last year was that we weren’t as fit as we’d like to have been, so there’s certainly been a focus on fitness,” Dawes said. “All of our GPS information is telling us that the girls have been working harder and their intensity is up, so that’s been a real bonus for us. From there, it’s just constant work on developing our skills and our game plan.”

When asked about their game plan, Dawes said he wants to help his players to develop greater football IQ’s and understand match situations when they are out in the heat of battle.

“We do a lot of work on our strategy type of stuff,” he said. “We want to control the footy then get our timing right of when to go fast and when to go slow. That’s what we’re looking at trying to achieve this year.”

As for Sturt’s recruiting strategy this offseason, they have focused on bringing players into the SANFLW system rather than poaching from rival SANFLW clubs.

“We’ve gone to the local clubs,” Dawes said. “We were able to watch a few local games once our season had finished, and from that we were able to attract a few newer girls who are bit older and have played a little bit of football. A couple of girls from Uraidla, Molly Fletcher and Alisha Gepp, who have really added to our group. Another girl Jess Good, who played at Blackwood, is a tall ruckman that’s come into the squad and been excellent for us. Chloe Forby came over from the Eagles, she’s a little goer that plays small forward, she’s added to the group as well.”

At the Under 18 preseason testing day earlier this month, 2020 Club Champion Zoe Prowse revealed that she is planning to play as a midfielder for the Double Blues in 2021. This surprised some given her prowess and expertise as a ruck, but Dawes clarified their reasoning behind the move.

“We just want to try and develop Zoe’s complete game,” he said. “She’s an outstanding athlete. Will she be a ruck at AFL level? She absolutely can be, no doubt, she has the athleticism to do it. But if we can add extra strings to her bow, where she could become a midfielder and then occasionally pinch hit in the ruck, that would really add to her talent as well.”

As for Sturt players that fans should keep an eye on this season, Dawes had several names in mind.

“A crowd favourite is Kate ‘Buba’ Harris– she’s a hard-working half-forward that goes at everything, is intense and just loves the game, the group love her too, she’s outstanding,” Dawes said. “Zoe Prowse, Alex Ballard, Georgia Swan and Hannah Prenzler are all in the State program, which is excellent for them. All of those girls have been really good. A couple of left field ones [to keep an eye on]. New ruckman Jess Good is not a household name, but she’ll be very handy for us. Maya Rigter, Isobel Kuiper and girls like that have always been consistent performers for us as well.”

Although a finals berth is firmly on Dawes’ mind, he knows this will be difficult to achieve in 2021 due to the strong competition in SANFLW.

“Our goal is to play finals, no doubt about that,” Dawes said. “We think we were on track last year before the wheels fell off a bit, but we really think the list we’ve got now, the development the girls are putting in, and we’re progressing to a stage where we think we can play finals. Things will have to go right for us to do that, it’s a really tight competition that’s always constantly improving, so hopefully we’re improving a bit more than the other clubs.”

Sturt’s season begins on Saturday morning at X Convenience Oval when they take on Glenelg.

 

Picture credit: SANFL

 

For more SANFL Women’s news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Ankle injury can’t stop Kuiper rekindling love for footy

STURT over-ager Izzy Kuiper‘s top-age year might have come to a sour end due to an ankle injury last year culminating in her missing the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, but it has not deterred the inside midfielder.

It was just her first year in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition after spending a season with her local club, Mt Lofty Devils. Her pathway to where she is today is not too dissimilar to most young female footballers, who were forced to stop playing the game they loved due to limited opportunities growing up.

“I grew up playing netball since the age of seven or as early as you’re allowed to, up until about two years when I first played (football) games for Mt Lofty Devils,” Kuiper said. “Then just enjoyed that and loved that so much and from there decided to quit netball, played at Lofty for the season and then went down to Sturt.

“Then just had heaps of other opportunities arise from that like the Crows Academy, State (Under 18s Academy) all of that. “But i did play footy when I was younger with my brothers so I was at Onkaparinga Valley club which was my local footy playing with my twin brother Zachary. “That’s where it all started and yeah just got back into it about two years ago.”

“I think after Under 13s or something the girls couldn’t keep playing with the boys only because at that age there were no options for a girls teams, so I just had to decide to stop playing and had to go with netty because that was about it for footy, so yeah started back up and we got back into it,” Kuiper said.

For her first season at the top level in South Australia, Kuiper said she immediately noticed the difference and knew she would have to adapt to the faster, more challenging style of play.

“It was just a big step up from Mt Lofty, the skills-wise of everyone was that next level above so it was really exciting you get to play with a good bunch of girls,” Kuiper said. “Love playing with ‘Bevo’ (Georgia Bevan) because she had obviously been drafted to the Crows and come back so it was really exciting to be able to play with her. “Unfortunately I only got to play the four games before I injured my ankle but up until then I was loving it.”

The ankle injury only spurred her on more for what would become an over-age season in the Double Blues, keen to remain fit and play out every game. She managed to do that, but instead this time instead of her ankle, it was a global pandemic that prevented Kuiper from playing at the national championships.

“I guess I was really determined to come back because I obviously missed six games on the SANFL last year so I was just really excited to come back and have an impact on the game and really just get back into footy because I had so much time off so I was just keen to get back into it, play with all the girls and have a really good season with Sturt,” Kuiper said.

The Sturt contested ball-winner said fitness was a key component that was able to transition from the netball courts to the football field, but otherwise it was a completely different ball game. That suited Kuiper to a T though, finding it easy to pick up where she left off as a child.

Nah it was really easy getting back into it,” Kuiper said. “I think footy suited me more than netty, like I love to run and be aggressive and lay tackles and stuff, and with netball you can’t do that. “So it was really easy to get into footy and do all those things.”

Kuiper said her tackling pressure and fitness are among her best traits on the field. Certainly a couple of important traits to have when you are an inside ball winner wanting to clear the ball from a stoppage. She did concede she was keen to improve her kicking further and work on her speed off the mark, but her talent was noticed when she was awarded a Breakthrough Player of the Year Award in Round 3.

In the Double Blues’ first win of the season, the then 18-year-old had 18 disposals, five marks, six tackles and four clearances against Woodville-West Torrens. Kuiper said she was thrilled to be nominated for the award.

“It was awesome to get that,” she said. “To be recognised and have a little write-up and a video (on the SANFL website), I just thought it was.. I really loved that. “All the parents loved that.”

While Kuiper is known for her pressure and her role as an inside midfielder, the 172cm contested ball winner used to play on a wing. That was Mt Lofty, but then coaches began to quip “you’re always laying tackles” which is not always the first thought for a winger, prompting her move to the inside, and she has never looked back.

In the time since she has returned to the game, and in particular from her disrupted 2019 season through to her 2020 season, Kuiper said her awareness was one area that had developed in her time with Sturt under new coach, Bruce Dawes.

“My Sturt coach really just harped on being aware of the game and where your person is,” she said. “So it’s about recognising ‘okay someone is already in what else can I do to impact the game?’. “I never really had much thought when it came to footy, I would always see ball, get ball and that was it. “But now I can really see the game and impact the game in other ways if you’re not in at the ball.”

Kuiper has been thankful for her return to football, and none more so than the person she named as her inspiration throughout her journey, Sturt teammate and best friend, Allani Dawes.

“She was the first one who got me back into footy,” Kuiper said. “She was like ‘oh just come out to Lofty, have a run, have a kick see how you go’ just to have a kick. “I was playing netball but I wasn’t enjoying it too much so she was like ‘come out and enjoy it’ and ever since then she’s always encouraged me and been proud of all my success. “She’s someone I can always go to to talk about my game. “So she’s definitely my biggest inspiration.”

Picture: Supplied

Whilst her football career is blossoming, Kuiper was heading down a similar path with her netball, representing Matrix in the South Australian Premier League. While she could have continued down that path, she said she was happy for a number of teammates and opponents who had progressed on to play in the Suncorp Super Netball.

“I love seeing them out there and continuing their netball pathway,” Kuiper said. “it’s super exciting and really good for them that they’ve been able to keep progressing through. “It’s been really good to see.”

While it might have been a calling at some stage for Kuiper, now she firmly has her sights set on the elite level of the AFL Women’s.

“My long-term goal is naturally I’d love to get drafted,” Kuiper said. “But at this point just continue playing in the Sturt side and hopefully going well in there next season.”