Tag: Scott Armour

Surprised McRae loving footy journey

WHEN she first started football, Grace McRae and her father had to “sneak around” behind her mother’s back in order to play the new sport. Eventually her mother caught on and everyone was on board, and now it is hard to keep it a secret after the Gippsland Power midfielder was invited to the AFL Women’s Draft combine. Whilst the combine will not go ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it showed there was enough interest in the teenager that her father made the right choice.

“My friend, it was a local club in Inverloch and they didn’t have enough players and she was playing with them currently, so I asked my dad because I knew my mum wouldn’t let me play,” McRae said. “So I asked my dad if I could fill in for them and play for them for a few games.”

“So me and my dad, he was sneaking me around to go play footy, then eventually my mum found out and then my local coach said ‘hey do you want to play? You’ve been nominated to go play interleague’ and then I went and played interleague that my local coach was my interleague coach and he said ‘Gippsland Power are looking at you’ and then I got an invite to Gippsland Power.”

Having come from a basketball and netball background, McRae enjoyed juggling the sports up until recently, representing Dalyston in the netball right until the most recently completed season, and basketball up until she started at Gippsland Power. It took some work to manage her time, but McRae got it done.

“Netball would clash on the same weekend as Gippsland Power. My local football club, which was Dalyston,” McRae said. “They, the netball club let me (play football) if I had a football game on the same day because Gippsland Power varies from Saturday to Sunday. So if Gippsland Power was on Saturdays, I just said sorry I couldn’t play that game. I’d give them a lot of time, like a heads up so they could find another player to fill in.”

“But luckily for me, most of the games where on Sunday. “So my local club, I just have to give them a lot of notice of what games would be clashing. “And then, yeah, they were happy for me to go play footy because they know that’s sport. I really, really love.”

As for juggling other commitments such as studies or work, McRae said it was all about time management and sticking to it.

“You have to definitely designate your certain times like you have trainings at certain times for different sports,” McRae said. “So you gotta make sure like I have free’s at school. “I have to make sure I really use them if I need to stay in at lunch time at school. “That’s what I had to do. “I designate, like, after school times that I know I didn’t have training or work and all games, and I’d make sure I sit down and do that.”

Looking back on her journey through the junior elite pathway, McRae said she has loved every moment and would not change a thing.

“The pathway has been amazing,” she said. “I didn’t expect it. “Honestly, I thought I was just going to play local footy. “So to actually go through the ranks of interleague and then Gippsland Power has been awesome. “They clearly show that you can have a pathway as well, like they say you can from Gippsland Power. “You can get nominated or you go play these kind of like the pathways and they are clearly highlighted to players, which is absolutely awesome.”

McRae is a predominant midfielder who showcases clean hands and hard running, but most of all a competitive spirit. In recent times she has been thrown forward and back throughout games to increase her versatility, but the inside midfielder loves being at the coalface of the contest. Still hoping to develop her kicking – after all she has only 10 games at NAB League level – the AFL Women’s Draft hopeful still has a chuckle about the first training session she had with the Power.

“I was holding the football wrong apparently the whole time when I came into Gippsland Power,” McRae said. “So they helped me fix that. “And yeah, my kicking definitely has improved, but I know I can approve it further.”

An honest conversation with Gippsland Power Female Talent Manager Chelsea Caple and senior coach Scott Armour helped lift McRae’s intensity in her draft year as she set her sights on the elite level.

“I wasn’t expecting like, named into the combine or anything, but I had a chat with Scotty and Chelsea at Gippsland Power and they asked me what I wanted to do and I said, ‘I definitely want to give getting drafted a crack’, but I’d mostly just wanted to have fun. “Enjoy it because it, like it, just goes too fast. “So my goal is definitely to get drafted. “But also just to have fun.”

Having reached the national championships for basketball, won a couple of Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards in the sport, as well as a league best and fairest in the Under 17s despite being two years younger in the age group, it would have been easy for McRae to see her potential in those codes. Instead, she looked to another former netballer who has made the transition into Aussie rules as her inspiration.

“I’m going to say Sharni Layton just because she’s been in netball pretty much a whole life,” McRae said. “And then just to do a 360 and go into footy and just like challenging yourself, I think that that really inspired me just because she she wasn’t 100 per cent sure of footy but she just gave it a crack. “And she’s, she’s loving it, and I I feel like that’s what I look towards as well.”

McRae certainly is loving her football and remembers her debut fondly, marking it as her favourite football memory. In scorching heat at Frankston Oval, the Power went down to Oakleigh Chargers by 50 points but McRae went on to have nine touches and lay an equal game-high eight tackles in the process. She went from strength to strength and has loved the journey.

“The playing group at Gippsland Power, through both years have been excellent, and I think that’s what’s really helped me,” McRae said. “(I) really enjoy … that environment of Gippsland Power and the players I was playing with, we got along as well and it was amazing.”

Shanara Notman – Grasping opportunity through adversity

GIPPSLAND Power prospect Shanara Notman is somewhat of a coach’s dream; versatile, raw, hard-working, and made of leadership material. The 19-year-old narrowly missed out on being drafted last year, and had pegged her 2020 campaign as one which would help garner the experience and game sense required to make the step-up to an AFL Women’s list.

Setbacks have come thick and fast for Notman and her fellow draft hopefuls in a rollercoaster year, but the talented tall has formed a habit of making good on each opportunity to arise across her young footballing career.

She hyperextended her knee five minutes into last year’s NAB League season, but recovered in time to warrant selection in the Vic Country Under 18 squad. It was during the weeklong carnival in Queensland where Notman thrust her name into draft contention, swinging up forward and even through the ruck after cutting her teeth off half-back for Gippsland.

Being overlooked from those dizzying heights would have put many AFLW hopefuls on the back foot, but not Notman.

“Straight after the draft I quickly contacted Chelsea Caple, our talent manager at (Gippsland) Power,” Notman said. “Less than an hour after the draft, my permit for the 2020 season had been approved for Power, so I was going to go in as a 19-year-old. We had an awesome preseason this year and I put in so much effort to get there.”

The effort looked to be paying off, as Notman, with VFLW and representative experience under her belt, returned a couple of outstanding performances at the start of this year’s NAB League competition. But with that season, along with every other league across Victoria written off in due course, Notman found herself facing yet another hurdle.

“We got two games in this year, we had an awesome camp run by our coach, Scotty (Armour)… but since the news about not playing anymore, then hopefully playing later in the year, which obviously got cancelled too, it’s been a bit heartbreaking,” she said.

Notman (left) in action for Vic Country during the 2019 AFLW Under 18 National Championships

Notman is a talented multi-sport athlete, though the art of hurdling has become more of a mental battle in such “chaotic” times.

“To stay motivated, it’s been full of ups and down this year,” she said. “I’ve been fully committed to going to the gym or going for a kick with a few mates who are local and play VFL with us (in line with COVID-19 lockdown regulations of the time). “But it’s an incredibly difficult time, especially because you’ve got to rely on yourself, not your teammates and coaching staff to keep you motivated.”

With lockdown restrictions eased in regional Victoria in mid-September, Notman says she “can’t wait” to get back to some form of normality and group training as soon as possible.

“I find it easier to train with a group of girls than to train by myself, it just keeps you more motivated,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to have one of my best mates, Breanna Pratt, she plays with me at VFL and she lives really close-by so I can go for a kick with her. I’ve got a home gym set up just to keep fit, too.”

“I’m a really social person… I always chat to the Power girls, just helping out the younger ones. “I’m looking forward even in the future to going back down to Power, helping out there and doing whatever I can to help the girls out.”

As the second-eldest member of Gippsland Power’s current squad, Notman has naturally become a leader among the group – despite only featuring in the elite footballing pathway for two years. Having leant on the likes of Daisy Pearce and Gippsland Power graduate, Tyla Hanks during her time at the Casey Demons, the youngster was especially driven to set an example at the start of her over-age NAB League campaign. Earning the vice-captain tag only made it official.

“I was lucky enough to be named the vice-captain of Power this year alongside Grace McRae, who was our captain,” she said. “I was really putting in with that leadership role as I was (one of) the oldest girls on the team – me and Leyla Berry were the over-agers. I was putting in the effort to lead the girls because we’ve got some 15-year-olds and a pretty young group. It was a really exciting time.”

“Girls like Tyla Hanks from the Power, she’s awesome… I trained with the Melbourne girls at the start of the year, with Daisy Pearce and that. They’re great leaders and they help all the NAB League girls come through. They’re just amazing.”

Shanara Notman in action for Gippsland Power. Source: AFL Media

Given Casey’s ties to Melbourne’s AFLW side, Notman has jumped on the Demons’ bandwagon in support of her VFLW teammates, as her beloved Hawthorn does not yet lay claim to a women’s team. But it’s not just players who have mentored Notman throughout her path less travelled by, as the aforementioned Caple, Armour, and former Gippsland Power stalwart, Peter Francis have also played big roles in seeing her through to this point.

“I’m always in contact with Chelsea Caple and Scotty Armour,” she said. “They’re really good mentors for me, they’ve always been there for the last two years and they’ve really encouraged me to be my best… staff like Peter Francis really helped me get into footy, he was a big help at (Gippsland) Power.”

“At Casey I’ve got our assistant coach Troy Hemming, he’s from Warragul so I’m always giving him a call to go for a kick here and there and just catch up.”

As for the ideal path forward, Notman is looking to harness her versatility and play as high a level of football as possible. There lies somewhat of a Plan B as well, as the 19-year-old plies her trade full-time as a support trainee at Drouin Secondary College in the PE and sport and recreation realms.

“The ideal path will obviously be to start playing footy again next year. But my overall goal will be to one day just play footy at the highest level possible and just enjoy footy,” she said.

“I feel like my best position would be running off half-back. Especially at the Power this year, that really benefitted me… (but) it’s really exciting to be versatile and just play wherever the coach wants you to play.”

“If the draft doesn’t go as I hope this year, hopefully VFL actually goes ahead next year and I’ll just keep playing at Casey because I’m really enjoying that.”

At the time of writing, the 2020 AFLW combine testing and All-Stars game in Victoria were cancelled, leaving the October 6 draft as Notman’s next major point of call.

Young Power side set to spark in 2020

GIPPSLAND Power’s “really young” group from 2019 has a year of experience under its belt, with plenty of exciting players coming through the ranks, Female Talent Coordinator Chelsea Caple is excited about what 2020 will bring from a development standpoint. The Power might have only recorded the one win – over the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels – in 2019, but the squad which contained a plethora of bottom-age and even 16-year-old talent learned some valuable lessons that will hold them in good stead for the upcoming season.

I think with the experience that all of our bottom ages and our Under 16s were exposed to last year, we had Under 16s playing every single game and they got so nervous and I think now they’ve had that season under their belt, it was a tough season,” Caple said. “They can learn from that and understand that they’ve got now that experience so they can go out and actually show our younger ones how to do it. “

Like any organisation, the Power had tested what training methods got the most out of the players, and once they found the right mix, they were able to excel and build on the momentum over the pre-season. Caple said both the boys and girls testing as one group really pushed every member of the squad.

“We’ve been really excited (with) how our preseason has gone,” Caple said. “We’ve changed it again. “So last season the girls trained twice a week, we brought them in still on a Tuesday night and then they trained with the boys on a Friday. “We though that intensity worked really well; we weren’t able to bring that across to the training once the girls were just by themselves so what we ended up doing is we’re revisiting the program and they actually trained three nights a week. “So Monday, Wednesday, Friday in four different satellites, alongside the boys, integrated within their program so they did their warmup and their hands together, and I think the benefit that we’ve seen from a club perspective but also from fitness testing it was definitely the best decision.”

Gippsland has one AFL Women’s National Academy member in Megan Fitzsimon, who has spent a week with North Melbourne and travelled to Darwin for the Academy’s pre-season training camp. Caple said on-field leadership through through those programs will improve even more, and noted another surprise packet to keep an eye on was Phillip Island’s Grace McRae who has developed at an impressive rate and worked hard to improve her game. McRae initially approached the Power crossing from netball and once she worked out what she had to do switching the round ball for the oblong one, caught the eye and has not rested on her laurels, training with her local boy’s team simultaneously with the Power.

The Power have opted to bring back three 19-year-olds in 2020, with Caple identifying a “two-year gap” with plenty of talent filtering through the bottom-agers, and experience crucial in such a young side.

Shanara Notman‘s coming back on to our list after playing some games with Casey VFL; Leyla Berry, who played with us two years ago, alongside Tyla Hanks had a year off and decided to come back,” Caple said. “And Charlize Bird, so Charlize was one of our top ages last year who had a shoulder reconstruction and just probably didn’t get the most out of her development and as many opportunities as we would have liked her so we’ve been able to bring her back. “We think those three will add a lot of maturity to our program, and hopefully be able to guide the younger girls as well to maintain the standards that we have.”

Notman played in defence for Gippsland last season, returning late in the year after injury saw her miss most of the season. A starring role rebounding off half-back against Calder Cannons in the final round caught the eye and the former basketballer was invited to represent Vic Country at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships. There, she played as a forward and showed she could fulfil multiple roles on the field, something that gives the Power a good problem to have.

“I think she’ll (Notman) probably mix both (defence and forward),” Caple said. “I know Scott (Armour, Gippsland Power coach) loved her on the half-back line just because that ability for her to read the play from her basketball background is phenomenal. “But then at the same time we want to be able to talk to VFLW and AFLW clubs and see where they want to see her as well. “We think this is a great opportunity for her to maybe show what she didn’t get to last year being injured but she’s also new to the game as well. “So there’s a lot of learning and education that goes with that. “We’re doing a lot of work with Casey and Melbourne now to make sure that she’s in the right environment and she’s supported from a transition perspective as well.”

While the top-agers will gain much of the focus, there are a couple of Under 16s talents that Caple said will feature throughout the season having very different paths in their footballer journey.

“We’re really excited to have Xavier Duursma‘s little sister Yazzie (Yasmin) Duursma join the squad for the first time, so she’s an ’04 born so under 16,” Caple said. “She is an elite netballer, so she’s coming across, I think she will try and juggle the two at the moment. “But we’re really excited and from what we’ve seen from her testing she’ll make the transition perfectly fine. So that’s really exciting to see.”

Lily-Rose Williamson has won the best on ground in the V-Line for the last three years  and she’s still Under 16,” Caple said. “So she’ll get some more opportunities this year in the Under 18s setting. “We’re really excited about a lot of new ones that we’ve brought into the program that it’ll be their first year in the Under 18 system.”

As for the 2020 focus, it was much the same as every year – development over success. Caple said by developing players to their full potential, it gives them the best opportunity to play at the best level they possibly can, and improving from week to week, rather than focusing on the scoreboard which is what makes the NAB League Girls competition important for the female footballing pathways.

“That measure of success for us is much better than that win to loss ratio, which can be really demoralising at times,” she said. “I think Scott Armour and the rest of the team produced that environment and that culture where the girls can still walk off the field and know that they had fantastic intensity, fantastic pressure. “And so they had little wins in certain elements of the game. “So no doubt Scott will stick to that path. “Hopefully, I can see the girls being competitive, but obviously everyone’s lists are getting bigger and better. “I talked to the other regions and their 04’s are outstanding as well. “So it’ll be a matter of just giving them everything that we’ve got and the best development opportunities for them as people and as footballers.”

Rippon making the most of her opportunities

ENCOURAGED by her school footy coach who also happened to be Gippsland Power coach Scott Armour, Alana Rippon jumped into footy and has embraced every opportunity that has come her way since.

“I started just with school football and I really enjoyed that,” Rippon said. “My coach from school football was lucky enough to be the coach for Gippsland Power (Armour) so he then pushed me to go in and join this journey and the first year I had at Power was the best year so that’s what’s pushed me to stay in it, so it was really enjoyable.

With a new love for footy, Rippon immersed herself in the thick of things at Gippsland learning as much as she could in her first year and working hard to fine tune her skills.

“I just learnt a heap, like more than I thought I would have, and it was just great coaching and great experience,” she said.

With one preseason down the second year of footy was much easier with Rippon more accustomed to the rigorous training and requirements to be the best footballer she can be.

“It was really good. Probably not as hard as the first year because I knew that I had to do it, but it was good,” she said.

Having only played for two years, Rippon is still perfecting her craft on the footy field and after spending time both on ball and on the wing with Gippsland she hopes to continuously build on her game.

“I think it would be good to get a bit more experience on the ball because I’ve spent most of my time on the wing last year,” she said.

Juggling school commitments and footy was a challenge for the aspiring footballer, forced to make sacrifices and find a good balance.

“It was a bit difficult but I always kind of made it work I guess. I knew my school was first at the time, but I made sure that was out of the way so I could do this,” she said.

Only still new to the game, one of Rippon’s main aims is to enhance her footy skills and have an impact across the ground with her disposals.

“Just to improve my footy and get better. Probably just my skillset, they’re not bad but they could always be better,” she said.

Notman enjoys pathway journey

THE journey rather than the destination has driven Gippsland Power and Vic Country versatile tall, Shanara Notman. The talented athlete has tried her hand at basketball, netball and athletics; still involved in the first two as well as the oblong shaped ball sport.

Not many outside the Gippsland Power pathway would have known much about the key position defender who has proven more than capable up forward or in the ruck as the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships attest. The reason was the fact Notman chose not to play last year, focusing on basketball after an initially successful V/Line Cup carnival where playing for the Power, held her own against fellow dual-athlete Lucy Cripps on that day.

Returning to the NAB League Girls system, Notman had a strong return when she played the opening game of the season, before getting into the groove in the final three matches, averaging 12.3 disposals and 2.7 marks per game. Her best match came in the final round, racking up 18 disposals, five marks and seven rebounds against Calder Cannons to really show off some of her athletic attributes.

Notman said she always enjoyed football, but the fact there were “no options” to play football as a young girl, opted for basketball which was her favourite sport at the time.

“I started around just as a little kid kicking around with my brothers and then didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “I played more basketball and netball, and then I saw there was a pathway through Gippsland Power and then saw that the AFL was bringing in women’s league and I only started playing the last year or the year before.”

Speaking to Notman in the pre-season, she had not placed any expectations on her season.

“Not sure (where I want to get to), hopefully make the VFL,” Notman said. “Some of the girls will make VFL and some of the girls will make the draft, but I’m just there to enjoy it with the girls.”

Notman praised the work of Gippsland Power’s Female Talent Manager Chelsea Caple and Head Coach Scott Armour who had helped work with her and further develop her footballing abilities. Whilst she said her positioning was strong, she just had to piece everything together transferring her skills from basketball to Australian Rules football.

She certainly did that, earning a place on Vic Country’s list for the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships on the Gold Coast. There, Notman impressed through the ruck and up forward, booting a goal and providing a presence in the forward half of the ground. She also ticked off the box for making the VFLW, signing with Casey Demons for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Whilst Notman was not sure what the season held at the beginning of the year, she would be pleased with how it has panned out, particularly over the past couple of months and now she just looks ahead to see what the future holds.

U18 Girls season preview: Gippsland Power

AFTER not registering a win in season 2017, Gippsland Power showed marked improvement in 2018, winning three games and drawing another – against a previously unbeaten side – while remaining incredibly competitive throughout the season. Female Talent Manager, Chelsea Caple and head coach Scott Armour are teaming up again in season 2019, after what was a really promising year last year.

“I think we definitely saw improvement in the team from season 2017 to season 2018,” Caple said. “Obviously, we saw a new coaching panel from Scotty McDougal to Scotty Armour and I think Scott brought with him that idea of developing the girls as individuals, developing them as a team and really focusing on those little wins. “So not necessarily those scoreboard wins, but tackling pressure and just the girls putting in 100 per cent and I think that really showed and our progress throughout the year with the wins and the draws that we had was definitely an improvement. “Obviously being a development competition, we don’t necessarily look at the scoreboard, but we know that winning teams and successful teams breed draftable players which is what we try and get achieved as well. “We were really happy with the season, especially coming from the back of 2017, having a little more of a challenging year. “This year will be just as interesting.”

There were some nervous times early in the season, with the Power opting not to play a pre-season practice match, and then getting belted by Oakleigh in the opening game. But any nerves about how the second season might go down, lasted just a round, as the Power turned it around to defeat the Western Jets, then draw with Murray Bushrangers the following round.

“We took some learnings (from last year),” Caple said. “So in 2017 we played a practice match against another side, and it probably from our perspective gave the girls a bit of a reality check so they were ready to hit Round 1 running. However, in 2018 we had five girls make our first side that hadn’t played a game of football competitively against other people.” “… and six other debutants,” Armour added. “So we had 11 playing their first TAC game. “I think we underestimated the nerves and how that could impact, because we saw how their football could develop from that first round, and change.” “Absolutely,” Caple agreed. “You could just tell in that first quarter that our really talented players from other sports were just like ‘oh my goodness this is the pace’ and it probably took them that whole game to adjust. They were learning the game as well, but they learning the pace, learning the intensity, but by Round 2 they knew what to expect.”

Armour said dual sport athlete, Jasmine Ferguson was a perfect example of someone who took time to adjust, but when she did, she flourished.

“I think Jaz Ferguson is a good example,” he said. “She came only playing school football, and only four games of school football, and struggled a bit in Round 1. “Then she had a really consistent season and ended up playing VFL football with Collingwood. “I think it was that first game, and we’ve got a practice match this weekend (earlier in February) and hopefully we can get some of those nerves out of the newer girls. :So we can be a bit more match ready this year.”

One constant in the Gippsland Power program who will no longer run out with the girls is last year’s co-captain, Tyla Hanks who has followed on from her top-age year with some impressive performances in the AFL Women’s competition for Melbourne. Both Caple and Armour praised the impact Hanks had on the group throughout her time at the Power.

“I think Tyla’s really calm under pressure and I think her season with us and her season with Carlton in the VFLW prepared her really well for AFLW,” Caple said. She’s playing against those bigger bodies, she’s got used to the pace. “Obviously AFLW is another step, but we never had any doubts that she wouldn’t be able to do it.”

“No she, boy or girl she’s one of the best young footballers I’ve seen and I think in a few years’ time you’ll see just how good she is at AFLW level,” Armour said. “She’s a young leader, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the leadership group or in some leadership role in the next few years.”

So how will Hanks’ departure affect the Power? Caple admitted while the saying goes ‘everyone is replaceable’, she conceded Hanks was hard to replace. Armour said the team was not looking to replace Hanks directly, but instead look for a range of players to step up in her absence.

Tyla Hanks and Maddy Prespakis, those types, I think they’re hard to come by and I think you really value them when they do come through,” Armour said. “But we’ve got some really talented girls and we’re happy with how they’re progressing. “Not saying that they’re going to be a Tyla Hanks. “They’re all unique and different in their own way. “Nikia Webber had a pretty good Round 1 to 5 last year I think she’d kicked nearly 10 goals. “She started off really well and I think she’s got the potential to really impact this year and getting some consistency will be what we aim for her. “She’s a very good mark, she’s very good one-on-one and she’s one of the best kicks in the league. “Already people, VFL and AFL are looking at her kicking because it’s excellent. “So we do have some strengths coming through even though we’ve lost Tyla. “Just different players.”

Caple said the amount of players who had shown more voice at training and over the pre-season compared to the year before was noticeable.

“It’s also an opportunity for other players to step up. With Tyla filling such a role – she was a vice-captain in her bottom-age year and a captain in her top-age year, we’ve seen some of the girls through pre-season really stepping up and seeing that that gap needing to be filled,” she said. “We played an intraclub … and to see the voice from some of the girls that we didn’t see last year and even the direction and the leadership on the field. “Tyla was for us, and still is, a leader on the field and a leader by example. “To really notice that those girls are stepping up, understanding what Scotty wants from them in terms of structure and being able to guide that, where previously they probably did rely on Tyla.”

Armour said the reliance on Hanks at times also worked the other way, with Hanks having an ability to create opportunities for her teammates.

“I think it works both ways too,” he said. “There might be the mindset of ‘well Tyla will do it’, but also Tyla was one of those players that would bring others into the game and help with their confidence and they can get better because of it. “That was what we tried and the angle we used with Tyla, that she can build others up. “For the other girls, Tyla will be there to support them and the girls will be there to support Tyla and hopefully they weren’t just thinking Tyla will do it all. “We knew that she would get close attention. “Not saying that she got anything illegal, but close attention which she should because she’s an awesome player, so we needed other people to step up.”

With a lot of bottom-age players now moving into their top-age year, Gippsland Power has no shortage of leaders ready to take the next step, as well as some with limited football experience.

“So we’ve already spoken about Nikia (Webber), but Maddi Shaw (is one to watch),” Armour said. “We think Maddi can have a big impact this year. “She was really consistent for us last year. “She played through the midfield and off half-back. “She reads the ball well, she learns stoppages, she holds her feet well, (is) quick, tries to break the lines when she gets the ball. “Very aggressive when tackling. “We’re hopeful she’ll take that next step up this year. “Also, we’ve got another top-ager in Shanara Notman, now she didn’t play last year but she played V/Line the year before. “Now she’s come from elite basketball background and think she will be one to watch athletically. She’s quite tall, she’d be about 183cm. “She can play forward, back, ruck, onball, wing. “She can play anywhere. “Trying to decide I guess where the best fit is for the team will be important. She reads the ball really well, she is a competitor. “I remember years ago when we played V/Line, against Lucy Cripps‘ group (Peninsula Stingrays) and Lucy Cripps was doing really well so we put Shanara down there. “Now I think Lucy still won the day but Shanara made her really earn her possessions. And then she’s had a year off footy and come back to it. “We hope she will step up and from what she’s shown with her skill progression and her kicking been really good. “We’re excited for what the year can hold for her.”

Armour is excited to watch versatile bottom-ager, Chandra Abrahams continue to develop her game and build consistency in 2019 after glimpses of some highlight-worthy moments last season.

Chandra Abrahams has a really huge upside,” Armour said. “I think when she’s firing, the team is firing. “If she’s on, she can pull down some marks that not many others in the comp can. She’s a power athlete. She comes from an athletics background when she was young, she was an athletics champion at state level at shorter distance. She’s really powerful. “For her, when she’s forward she can lead with speed and have a lot of power in her lead when she goes up for the ball. She’s also really good up around the football, she’s really strong and she’s good at clearances. So I guess for us we’d like to see her going through the midfield and down forward, but that being said we played her down back at times last year and she did quite well last year, but probably forward and midfield for Chandra this year.”

Caple said the V/Line Cup squad has a number of players coming up who would be eligible for either the Under 18s or Futures games this season. Lily-Rose Williamson might only be turning 15 this year, but already the tough midfielder is eyeing off a spot in the Futures games mid-season.

“She’s 2004 born so we’ve been able to apply to have her potentially play in some of our futures games,” Caple said. “Last year she still played with the boys and the girls so she’d swap. “She’d play under 14s one week with dad and then play with the girls with mum. “Allegedly she was the best on the field with the under 14 boys and very, very, very hard tackler and held her own. “She’ll be an interesting one to see coming up for the Futures games.”

Overall, Armour has been pleased with the Power pre-season and looks forward to hitting the season running this weekend.

“I’ve been really happy with the way it’s been going and the way they’re developing,” the coach said. “We spent a lot of time in November doing a lot of fundamental skill work and trying to get some fitness into them. “We’ve been really happy with how it’s been going and it’s just been the last few weeks because of weather and things outside our control. “Things have been thrown upside down but we can only control what we can control, so we focus on that and try and move forward as best we can.”

As for a mantra throughout season 2019, it does not change with the Gippsland sides always keen for competitiveness and 100 per cent effort.

“As a team we’d like to be, one of the values of Power is that we’re hard to play against, that we’re really competitive and we’d love every team to come away thinking ‘gee that was tough’ whether they’ve lost or won, that that was a tough game,” Armour said. “That’s ideal. “I kept saying to the girls last year I want you to walk off the ground with your head held high, and the only way you can do that is knowing within yourself that you gave 100 per cent effort so for me, it’s a lot about them just giving absolutely everything they can. “If everyone gives 100 per cent we can’t ask for more than that. “They can’t do more than that, because some days you’re going to get beaten by teams that are better than you. “But the most important thing is we give 100 per cent and that’s coaching staff as well and that we are switched on and give our absolute best all the time.”

Gippsland Power starts its 2019 campaign on Sunday, March 3 against Oakleigh Chargers at Skybus Stadium Frankston, with the Power keen to make amends for last year’s Round 1 loss.

TAC Cup Girls preview: Gippsland Power

TWO recent Collingwood draftees are paving the way for aspiring Gippsland Power female footballers, who have reportedly “stepped up” over the pre-season according to the Power’s female talent manager Chelsea Caple, as she looks ahead to season 2018.

“I think getting two drafted in the 2017 draft has lifted the professionalism for the girls,” Caple said. “(The girls) can see that reality, when maybe a few years before it was more of a dream, so we’ve seen the girls step it up in training, in professionalism on and off the field. “So many of them have the dream of AFLW which now they can see through (Collingwood’s) Holly Whitford and Darcy Guttridge it’s a reality, so I think that’s really exciting as well. “We’re seeing that through pre-season which has been different to previous years.”

There are plenty of changes at Gippsland this year, with both Caple and new coach Scott Armour scouring far and wide for girls to join the club’s program. Armour named former netballer and gymnast Leyla Berry, and multi-discipline Jazz Ferguson as among the ones to watch.

“She (Berry) has just been tearing it up on the training track, she’s just so athletic” Armour said. “Her yo-yo tests are through the roof, her speed is exceptional and she can get the ball and is really exciting. She is a bottom-ager so she is one to watch.”

Ferguson is a 19 year-old permit player and one to keep an eye on given she has only played school football previously. Armour said the coaching staff was buoyant about Ferguson’s prospects in the TAC Cup this year.

“She’s one of the best female athletes we’ve seen go through (our program),” he said. “She’s got speed, she’s got power, she’s got endurance, she’s got height, she’s a fierce competitor, she’s played state level netball, basketball and been an athletics champion, so she’s an athlete and she’s learning the game really quick.”

Without a doubt the one to watch for the Power this year is AFLW Academy member Tyla Hanks, who Armour described as a real “leader”. Caple said Hanks showed her dedication last season as a bottom-ager and her work behinds the scenes impressed many of her male counterparts at the Power.

“Tyla Hanks who is obviously one of our top draftables, trained with the under 18 boys after our season finished last year,” Caple said. “There was more than once the boys asked if she could be selected in their team at training – they have so much respect for the girls as well. “They know the gap, even between their abilities is closing, so that was pretty cool to hear they wanted to play with Tyla.”

The mixed pre-season training has continued over the summer, which is something both Caple and Armour are supportive of to create a close bond between the squads.

“In our pre-season the girls train twice a week,” Caple said. “They’ll train on a Tuesday night as a squad, and then on a Friday night they join in the under 16 and under 18 boys in five different satellite locations. “We’ve found that the girls integrating with the boys has lifted the intensity and also reinforced that message of professionalism. “When the boys get there on the Friday, it’s business whereas the girls sort of have to step in and just go with that, whereas they might have a catch up or have five minutes of chatter. “They are just straight into it, their skills are remarkable when they’re kicking to targets and also receiving from a really strong kick from the boys. “Some of our girls would spend the whole session with the boys and they wouldn’t look out of place.”

Armour said the mixed training sessions were due to the support of Gippsland Power talent manager Peter Francis and under 18 boys’ head coach Leigh Brown.

“They are at every training session, they are with me, so we have up to six coaches on the ground, possibly seven on the ground, so we can split into small groups, do a lot of skill development and that’s all because of the acceptance of the girls program from Leigh and Pete and they’re helping push it along with the boys program,” Armour said. “It’s been really, really good.”

 

With the season fast approaching, the Power opted to play two intra-club practice matches rather than testing themselves against opposition clubs; for a very good reason – to reduce pre-season injuries through controlling the conditions of matches.

“We decided we would do intra-clubs because we can control the environment,” Caple, who is also strength and conditioning coach, said. “We can control how hard our girls hit, we can stop the game, set up structures if we need to, whereas we found if we were to play practice matches, it’s essentially a tenth and eleventh game on top of their really long season. “We modified that, I think that’s why we’ve had two intra-clubs and the girls were able to get that game time in their legs without a competitive game per say. “So we’ve taken those different approaches so hopefully we see this season now, with zero injuries or as few injuries as possible.”

Armour said the intra-clubs were also like an extended training session for the girls, particularly helpful for those new to the game.

“I was out in the middle of the ground with them,” he said. “I was able to say to the girls, ‘no you need to stand there’ or they were able to come up to me and say ‘Scotty, I don’t understand, where should I be?’ so it was really that teaching experience, not just a full-on praccy. “They were playing and getting the match practise, but also getting taught during it, which you can’t do if you’re playing another opposition.”

Gippsland’s first match is on Sunday, March 4 with a home game at Moe, played as a curtain-raiser to the Collingwood-Western Bulldogs AFLW game, a match which could potentially see former Power player Holly Whitford return to her home region, this time in black and white stripes. Armour said the side would focus on playing to their main strength, which is leg speed.

“I think we are going to try and play to our strengths and I think with the list we’ve got, we’ve got some really athletic girls and some really quick girls, so we are just going to try and play to our strengths and where that takes us, who knows? “That is the focus at the moment and really using space and leg speed. “We’ve got a first year footballer (Ebony Jones) who is a state medallist in the 100-metre sprint. “She’s super quick and in the practice match, she just got it a couple of times and ran past everyone. “So it’s really exciting to see the athleticism that we’ve got and I think all the other clubs that get athletic girls, you look to capitalise on that, and that’s what a coach should do, is to capitalise on what your strengths are as a group.”

Confidence the key to girls’ success

“IF we coach young female footballers the way we coach boys then we will lose them to the game.”

This is how Nathan Burke, high performance coach, and writer from SEN’s Inside Football magazine, portrays coaching girls. Scott Armour, new coach of the Gippsland Power TAC Cup Girls team, agrees wholeheartedly with Nathan Burke’s sentiments.

“I’ve had some experience working with girls and trying to get the best out of them in a sport setting because I’m a P.E. teacher,” he said. “So one of the things I’m aware of is the importance of building positive relationships with the girls and being positive about feedback.”

AFL Community’s AFL Female Club Guide echoes Armour’s view on coaching females, explaining that coaches need to understand the environmental, individual and societal factors that lead females to playing Aussie Rules football. Environmentally, clubs need to provide good facilities, and not let over-competitiveness get in the way of developmental improvement. Scott Armour is already on the right track in implementing an encouraging environment at Gippsland, with more of a developmental focus, rather than a winning-based focus.

“One thing we’re going to tell the girls is, we won’t be looking at the scoreboard as a measure of their success,” he said. “If they’ve lost the game, we’ll look at their effort and we’ll look at how they played, all that sort of thing. “We’ll get feedback from that, take positives and move forward. We won’t judge them by the scoreboard.”

Armour also knows the importance of developing the players as individuals first, rather than elite footballers. Berger (2014) states that girls in the 14-17 age groups are more likely than boys to suffer from the perception of not being good enough, perfectionism, sexual confusion, fear of failure, body image hatred and lack of self-esteem. So Armour intends to help players overcome these issues, as should other coaches.

“We need to build the confidence up with the girls and so yes we need to teach them and educate them, but we need to build their confidence up,” the Gippsland coach said.

“So the girls playing for us in a few weeks time they know that if they make a mistake, and the runner comes out, the runner will be saying, great option, you’ll get it next time. Rather than you’re off, you made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. So being critical will deflate confidence quickly in a game and it’s not going to help anyone.”

From a societal perspective, the AFL Female Club Guide states that: “coaches who stick to good coaching principles such as striving to achieve individual goals, putting development ahead of winning and allowing time for the girls to socialise, will get the best out of their footballers.”

To ensure that Armour can get the best out of his Gippsland players, he is mindful of the language he uses around the girls.

“(With) Girls, it’s really important to be careful of the language you use,” he said.

He explained this through relating it to telling boys about a fitness test result, compared to telling girls about it.  

He believes that the boys “might look around at each other, thinking who’s not doing their job, whereas the girls might associate it back to themselves”.

Another area that the AFL Female Guide focuses on is “catering for player’s other interests and commitments”. Many TAC Cup players are up to their ears in homework, and juggle a part-time job to make some pocket-money. Fitting in family time, and hanging out with friends is another story altogether. So how do players even think about adding football into their busy lives?

Gippsland Power Female Talent Manager, Chelsea Caple states that:

“The Gippsland Power philosophy is that family and school comes first, footy comes next”. Caple and Armour understand the difficulty in balancing work, school, sport, and socialising. Therefore, they are very understanding if footy has to take a back seat in the players’ lives.

“If girls are struggling because of school workload or something in the family has come up, they’ll speak to Scotty (Armour) or myself and we’ll just have to keep reminding of them, that there is zero pressure from us to be at training if school or family needs priority,” Caple said. “There’s a lot more things that come before football and we need to educate girls about that as well. “Essentially football could last for them five to ten years, whereas school and education lasts a lot longer.”

Armour echoed these sentiments, and added his point-of-view as a physical education teacher.

“A thing that helps is from a school’s side of things is that there’s so many teachers there (at the club), so we get it,” he said. “School is so important and so we’ve got a principal, a deputy principal, a leading teacher and myself so we all know the importance of school. “We support that.”

Gippsland Power finished winless last season, but with the extended 2018 season, and a new coach at the helm, the players will have every opportunity to develop not only their football skills, but also themselves.