Tag: jessie mulholland

New-look Ranges’ coaching group ready to tackle 2020

A NEW-LOOK coaching panel at the Eastern Ranges will lead the NAB League Girls’ into the 2020 season, as a number of girls enter their top-age year having been in the program for three seasons. Female Talent Coordinator, Jessie Mulholland said it was an exciting off-season with so many returning and fresh faces adding depth to the squad.

“We trialled about 120 girls … and so to see that talent is in our area now is really exciting,” she said. “Last year we were pretty bottom-age heavy in talent and the girls that have been in the program for three years, finally get their turn to be top agers, so we look pretty good. “Staffing has changed completely as well new head coach, all of our line coaches are new into that line as well so for us at Ranges we’re really excited for the year.”

It is not just the playing group that has a new look, with line coaches and even a fresh head coach taking over the role. Chris Pope might be a new name in that role, but has been a highly valued member of the Ranges’ coaching staff for some time.

Chris has been in our program as a senior assistant for the past three seasons and is very well known within the group and obviously the Ranges community,” Mulholland said. “He has come in and taken it by the horns and is doing a really great job pulling all the girls together and the staff as well as I mentioned a few of the staff members have changed or moved on to bring us as close as we have in the three months he has done a really incredible job with the group.”

On the field, Eastern has a number of standouts including a couple of players in the AFL Women’s National Academy who have been working hard building on their already identified talent as they work towards the biggest year in their footballing journey do-date.

“We have two academy girls in Liv (Olivia) Meagher and Tarni Brown, they’re doing really well on and off the field,” Mulholland said. “Everything they are doing with the academy and with us, their football skills it’s finally their year to be top-agers, so they are really exciting to watch. “We’ve also got Mietta Kendall and Jess Grace who have been in the program three or four years as well. “Mietta down back who you know is always reliable and always willing to pick up the ball and run. “Grace with her ruck work as well and we’ve got a 19-year-old as well with Lily Peacock who played six games of senior footy last year within the region and never played any before and is an elite runner. “So we are pretty excited to have her in the squad as well.”

In the past, Eastern Ranges have been able to help develop players from other codes and help them live out their AFL Women’s dream. Two years ago, former sprinter Mikala Cann went to Collingwood, and last year it was Victorian Netball League (VNL) netballer, Serena Gibbs who landed at Carlton. In 2020, Mulholland said there were a few cross-coders in the program, including VNL netballers with plenty of development left in them, Saskia Nannes and Keeley Sherar.

“Yeah Lily with her running off the wing, at the moment trying to get all the footy IQ into her as fast as possible, but probably not with Serena’s height,” she said. “We’ve got a few VNL netballers as well but they’ve got two more years in our program. “A lot of it has to do with the girls and their mindset so they know what an elite program looks like and what is expected from them on and off the field and they are willing to learn and they want to soak it up if not more than anybody else that comes into the program. “So a lot of the credit goes to those two girls and every dual athlete that comes into our program.”

Last year the Ranges made the finals, going agonisingly close to knocking off eventual premiers, Northern Knights in the preliminary final but just falling short. While the players were naturally disappointed after the game, Mulholland said the club could not be more proud of the way they represented themselves out there on Shepley Oval.

“Yeah it was bittersweet,” Mulholland said. “It was probably the best game we played the entire year, so to go out like that we were really proud of the way that we played and the result obviously didn’t go our way but you know that’s football. “We were super proud and you know obviously they’ll (players) be upset, but looking at the vision … we played the best we could and you know it was great.”

The season is nearing this weekend and Mulholland said the club had ramped up its preparation with a practice match providing the perfect place for trialling players in various positions. The Eastern Ranges’ Female Talent Coordinator described the match as “full on” with trying to manage the workloads and even spread of the players.

“We took a full list of 50 through to last week so the rotations were pretty heavy,” she said. “For us it was more seeing where girls can play, we’ve been a big focus on the athletes so trying to give them more than one position and pigeonholing them. “For them to sort of understand that you can learn more than one position because where you play for local you might not play for us, wherever your journey takes you, you may need to learn more than one position on the field. “So we’ve been super happy with the way everything has happened on and off the field with everything that has been going on.”

Meagher will lead the squad in 2020, becoming the first sole captain at the Ranges, while Kendall will be vice-captain, as part of a six-player leadership group.

“For the past three/four seasons we’ve had dual captains so this year we’ve gone with just Liv Meagher as our captain and Mietta Kendall as our vice captain,” she said. “We’ve got Jess Grace, Eloise Chaston who’s a newbie coming into the program after having ankle surgery at the back of local season last year, Bridget Deed and Tarni Brown in the leadership group as well.”

Now with the pre-season done, Mulholland said all the players and staff were excited about tackling Round 1 on the weekend when they head to Beaconsfield to take on the Dandenong Stingrays.

I think everything we have done on and off the field at Ranges is completely different to the past three seasons,” she said. “We went to camp and worked on our culture and our values so that was something the girls probably haven’t owned for themselves and [it’s] much tighter group I think than previously, so we are just playing the week as per normal. “We have had three praccy matches leading into so it has sort of become the norm and we wont put any pressure on the girls for the win. “That’s not what we are here to do, if the girls can develop as players then we’ve done our job.”

U18 Girls season preview: Eastern Ranges

EASTERN Ranges will field a virtually new side in the Under 18 Girls competition this year after 17 top-age players left at the end of last season. Now the Ranges will look to their next crop of youngsters to stand tall and follow on from the impressive first couple of seasons.

Female Talent Manager, Jessie Mulholland said the Ranges were pleased with the amount of girls who made Vic Metro squads, and played in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition.

“We thought that we had a really successful year, we had I think overall 11 girls between the 16’s and Under 18 Metro teams. We then had 13 girls on VFLW lists and then obviously the three drafted in Charlotte (Wilson), Emerson (Woods), and Mikala (Cann). So, for us and as a talent manager coming in for the first year, I don’t think we had as much success as the first year, but we were pretty wrapped with the girls but we also had a lot of talent – we had 17 top-agers, whereas this year we’re looking at about eight so we’ve lost a lot of talent coming into this year, we’re a lot younger. You can definitely tell with the skills but also how quiet it is around the group, obviously losing 17 18-year olds it’s a big drop off so we were really happy with last year and really excited for this season to start.”

The Ranges were keeping touch with the top two sides early in the season, but a shock loss to the previously winless Western Jets put a dint in their season. It did however teach the side plenty of important lessons.

“I agree (it somewhat derailed the season),” Mulholland said. “In saying that I think it was a good eye-opener for the girls – a lot were really disappointed, but they (Western Jets) obviously beat us on the day and they deserved the win, and to see how upset the girls were you obviously knew how much they wanted it. “They can’t win every game so I think for us mentally it was a good game to lose, to think you can’t just come in thinking and assuming that because you’re higher on the ladder that you’re going to win if you don’t show up on the day. “For the girls to be as upset as they were took us a few days to get over, but they came out the week after and obviously our next loss was against Calder in the rain.”

The Calder loss provided the Ranges with a lesson in wet weather football, as a future AFL Women’s star ran the side ragged.

“It was pouring down rain, it was probably our first game in the rain,” Mulholland said. “They beat us on the day too and (Madison) Prespakis was all over the ground so look, we can only get better and obviously we learn from the losses but in saying that, the girls should learn what a loss feels like because they’re not going to win every single game for the rest of their careers so for us that was probably the bigger lesson that we learnt than anything else.”

Looking ahead to 2019, AFL Women’s Academy top-age talent, Laura McClelland is the one to watch.

“She’s looking great, we’ve sort of got a kicking coach with her at the moment – that’s probably one of her weaknesses and she knows that, so we’re making sure that that’s ready to go and she’s confident in that,” Mulholland said. “She’s really excited about the season and we’re just sort of really getting ready to start and dying for this month to just fly through so we can start playing some games.”

Mulholland said McClelland will rotate between the midfield and forward as she looks to give her the greatest exposure to AFL Women’s recruiters.

“For the top-agers we try and look at where AFL clubs would want them to play so some of our top-agers may play in positions that they probably didn’t play in last year,” she said. “There’s a few girls that are coming in that haven’t played with us before and they’ll play in positions that we can see AFL or VFLW clubs looking at them for – looking at their strengths and weaknesses and where they’re going to be drafted. “‘Mac’ will play forward, but have a run in the midfield at some point as well.”

As well as McClelland, Mulholland named Tahlia Merrett and Victorian Netball League (VNL) netballer, Serena Gibbs as other top-age players to watch, while bottom-age talents Olivia Meagher and Tahni Brown are those with high potential for the future.

“They’re really exciting,” Mulholland said. “It’s shocking to see that we have still have another two years with them – their draft year will be next year so you sort of have parents or clubs talking to you about them, so you can’t actually tell that they’re still so young and middle-age for us. “Olivia’s really pumped up, she’s been with Collingwood through the Academy for the past few months so she’s learning a lot from them and they’ve shown up to every training session, they’ve loved it and they’re just ready to go. “They’re probably starting mids and they’re really exciting to watch – to think that we have them for another two years is just unbelievable.”

Mulholland said 19 year-old Gibbs would provide a tall target with plenty of development throughout the season.

“She’s probably the tallest player on our list and is as I said, really raw like Mikala (Cann) – obviously not as short as Mikala but she’ll be exciting,” Mulholland said. “We can teach her and shell soak everything up and we’re really excited just to watch her play some practice matches and see what she can do.”

Mulholland said she was hopeful about what the season could produce but knew it would have its challenges considering the youth of the side.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “We are very young, so we sort of look at ourselves like the Knights did last year and they were absolutely babies and got into a grand final so we’re obviously not writing ourselves off. “We’re very raw, but we’re really excited – we’ve got about eight bottom-agers where the majority could be picked into the Vic Metro squad, so what’s coming through in years to come is really exciting for us and our top-agers are really exciting as well. “We would’ve thought last year we were going to be closer to the top than what we were but obviously the Jets and Calder games didn’t do us many favours. “But yeah, we’re really excited and happy with our lists and what this region provides for these girls – it’s exciting and we’re just raring to go.”

Eastern Ranges begin their season on March 3 with a clash against Dandenong Stingrays at Skybus Stadium in Frankston.

Eastern Ranges duo set to debut in AFLW

THE Eastern Ranges have plenty to be happy about with three players drafted in the 2018 AFL Women’s Draft. Both Mikala Cann and Emerson Woods are set to make their debut for their respective AFLW sides this weekend, while defender Charlotte Wilson has not yet been named to take the field for Carlton.

Having never played football until last year Cann was a real shining light for the Ranges with her impressive athleticism and speed to burn. Eastern Ranges’ Female Talent Manager Jessie Mulholland, highlighted Cann’s raw talent and growth throughout the season.

“Following her journey, we were obviously her first introduction into football,” Mulholland said. “So to see her go from there, to Vic Metro, to All Australian, to Hawthorn premiership team and now into Collingwood and being selected to play in Geelong for Round 1 on Saturday is really exciting.”

Standing at 173cm, Cann proved that height is no object using her dynamism to burst through packs and clean hands to get through congestion. The former basketballer showed she has plenty of class and with the right direction could be a real force to be reckoned with on the footy field.

“With the dual athletes it’s really exciting how much they can transfer from each sport,” Mulholland said. “Athletes already coming into a program they’re ready to soak up as much information, so all you had to do is tell her don’t stand here stand here instead and she’d pick it up.”

Cann is set to lineup for the Magpies in their first game of the 2019 season against Geelong. With her excellent athleticism and general footy smarts Cann will be a welcomed inclusion in the Collingwood line-up who have been left without some serious star power after several key players departed in the off-season.

Meanwhile Woods will also be pulling on the navy blue for the first time this weekend. Woods who played predominantly through the midfield will provide plenty of speed and class across the ground making her a real asset for Carlton who struggled last season. Woods played with Cann at Eastern and Hawthorn and showed that she plays hard and knows how to win, having played in the premiership with the Hawks in the VFLW.

Though Woods has plenty of on-field skills it was her leadership that was a real feature of her game at Eastern, often leading from the front. While being at Hawthorn also helped to foster those attributes with the likes of Sarah Perkins and Meg Hutchins playing a role in her development.

“Emerson has always been a leader and I think she thrived in that environment [at Hawthorn] and they really welcomed those girls,” Mulholland said.

Both Cann and Woods proved that they are not afraid of the big stage and are capable of mixing it with more experienced players.

Cann powers home with remarkable improvement

IF there is one player in the TAC Cup Girls competition who has come from the back of the pack to storm home in the final straight, it is Eastern Ranges’ Mikala Cann. Having starred as a sprinter, and enjoyed playing basketball, Cann decided to try her hand at football once her friends were taking up the sport.

“I was playing basketball before I played footy and a lot of my mates started playing so I think that was the biggest influence and I really love the physically side of basketball, so coming to footy it’s all about the physicality and I really loved that part,” Cann said. “That was the main influence right there.”

Having rocked up to Eastern Ranges try-outs in the pre-season and not sure what to expect, Cann not only managed to hold her own, she caused some jaw-dropping reactions with her ability to use her great combination of speed and strength in advantage. Eastern Ranges Female Talent Manager Jessie Mulholland singled out Cann as one to watch from the pre-season.

“Mikala Cann – she has never played football in her life and she’s definitely going to be a utility player [to watch],” Mulholland said. “She can run out of that 50 insanely. “She played midfield on the weekend [vs. Calder two weekends ago] and the way she can get that ball out of the centre square will be incredible to watch for somebody that has no idea. “Basically we have to teach her the rules from scratch.”

The assessment was something Cann could relate to, admitting the rules were an area she had to learn.

“I think it was the knowledge that a lot of the other girls had because they had that first year playing at Eastern and that was the difference,” Cann said. “Me trying to learn all the structures and the positions and just really learning about the game. “That was the biggest thing, really trying to learn where the ball is and where to stand and all that. But they’ve done really well and taught me a lot, so I’ve learnt a lot, it’s been really good.”

Cann said the development at the Ranges was first class and has helped her rapid rise to Vic Metro and named in the TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year.

“Absolutely (love it),” the Eastern Ranges midfielder said. “I reckon I enjoy it (footy) more than basketball, I enjoy Eastern, there are such good people around. “I’ve loved every minute of it, it’s been so good. “I played a bit at school footy, but it was more just running around with mates. “It wasn’t really intensive skills or that. “I was just trying to kick a few snags, not in terms of technical stuff we do here.”

Cann said the physical nature of the game is what attracted her to the sport, and what she considered to be a major strength in her game.

“I think my strengths and what they really try teach me to do and focus on is my in and under, so tackling, and pressure and then trying to burst away from the contest too,” she said. “Getting in and under and getting it out and getting away too. “My physical side I try to focus on most.”

Along with her continued game sense, Cann said she was learning to kick on her opposite foot “as much as she didn’t want to”.

“Obviously the knowledge of the game,” she said. “Getting to the contests and knowing where the ball’s going to be, where to stand, how to read the tap from ruckman’s tap, they’re the biggest one. “Also my skill level too. “Using my left side, as much as I don’t want to, I have to as you get higher up, you’re going to need to start.”

Such has been Cann’s rise in the football ranks that the sprinter is now on the verge of a finals appearance for Hawthorn in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition. Once told of her call-up to Hawthorn intially, Cann could hardly believe it.

“Not really at all (expecting to be picked for VFLW), I was just trying to get picked every week,” Cann said. “I was really focusing on VFL and/or higher up and I think just focusing on each week has enabled me to really try and play the best each week and not really focus on it. “I like thinking in the now, rather than the future. “That’s really enabled me, but I never really thought about it.”

Cann said the close bond at Eastern made it an enjoyable year, and heading to the Gold Coast with so many teammates – and head coach Tom Humphrey – made it an easy transition into Vic Metro. The eye-catching runner said the team success had made everyone better players.

“I thought that we played really well against some really top quality sides and I think we developed and we got better as we got on, which is the best thing that can really happen is your improvement and individually,” Cann said. “I feel like I played well when the team played well. “When the team’s up and about, it gets everyone up and about.”

Cann said she was lucky not to have too much travel involved with her football saying she enjoyed the road trips.

“It’s not too bad, fortunately enough, mum loves coming to my games so she’ll always drive me,” she said. “I really like the driving to the games, the experience and the excitement for a game, I dunno, I love it. It’s not too bad.”

As for the next step in her career? Cann was determined to make it as high up as possible.

“Yeah to get drafted is the end-goal,” Cann said. “I guess that’s for everyone, but we’ll see how we go.”

TAC Cup Girls gaining momentum

THE TAC Cup was once a pathway for young boys to fulfil their childhood dreams of playing AFL, but now the elite Australian Rules junior program is gaining momentum among women’s footy. Now in its second season, the TAC Cup Girls program which includes all 12 TAC Cup clubs, has provided a pathway to give females aged 16-18 the best chance to fulfil their dreams of playing in the AFLW competition.

Many players are embracing the TAC Cup including the club captains. Eastern Ranges star Emerson Woods, who is also in her first year as club captain, is excited with the prospect of the TAC Cup and what it brings for female footballers. In her second season playing for the Eastern, Woods smiles as she begins to talk about the positive aspects of playing women’s footy.

“I think it is really good,” she said. “Obviously a lot of the boys are drafted from the TAC Cup. “My first season wasn’t great, but I went through a lot of pathways which was pretty good.“It’s really good that we get the same opportunities as the boys, and show our talents just like the boys do. “I think it is really good to get it running. “I think it is really good because it gives women the chance to play for AFL teams.”

The talented midfielder’s smile widens as she talks about her experiences as co-captain.

“I am enjoying my time as captain,” Woods said. “I am now co-captain alongside Charlotte Wilson which is pretty awesome. “It was a bit of a surprise for me. “Last year I wasn’t much of a leader…Growing up to be a leader, and showing my leadership has been really good. ”It is not something that I would have expected.”

Woods praised the professionalism of the women’s game including the physios and the trainers that attend every match.

“It is pretty good,” she said. “If something is wrong, they have our backs straight away. They look after us really well… I think there will need to be improvements as the game gets bigger.”

The female players elected in the TAC Cup competition are scouted during the season and invited to the Eastern Ranges trials at the end of the year. A TAC Cup squad of 35 and a Futures squad of 15, is selected.

In her fourth year playing at the Sandringham Dragons, Jemma Owen says the opportunity to be a club captain this year has been memorable.

“It is an amazing experience, it is growing experience, a way to improve my footy,” she said.

Owen beams with excitement as she discusses the growth of the TAC Cup.

‘It is pretty awesome to see the growth of the competition, she said. “From a couple of years ago playing in the TAC to what it is now with the new teams coming in this year especially, it is a pretty good feeling to be playing in the TAC.”

Despite the growing interest in the TAC Cup, there are some concerns over the competition which include knee injuries, muscle injuries and concussions. However, Eastern Ranges Female Talent Coordinator Jessie Mullholland cannot express enough the benefits of the competition and what it means for young females.

“It allows a pathway for young females to develop their skills in an elite environment,” she said. “It gives them the opportunity to pursue their football career and exposes them to different resources. Additionally, it allows them to make new friends in a new environment.”

The Grand Final will be held on May 9.