Tag: steve symonds

Magpies ready to swoop on second chance

FOR the second successive year, Collingwood heads into the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) finals series as the team to beat, sitting atop the table and claiming the minor premiership. But while that history repeats, coach Penny Cula-Reid is keen to ensure that the 2018 finals series history – which contained back-to-back losses and a straight sets exit – will not repeat. Cula-Reid said the “uneasy” nature of the AFLW season has the players determined to prove a point, and also take the learnings from last year in the VFLW to go deeper in 2019.

“I think the group itself has really evolved and developed from last year into this year, and same with AFL girls having such an uneasy AFLW season, coming into VFLW they really wanted to prove something and work on the things they needed to work on,” Cula-Reid said. “(We’re doing) nothing differently because I think that the girls have the experience knowing what it was like in the finals series. “Still going in with the mindset of anything is possible. “Obviously we wanted to make sure we have a winning mentality and making sure our mental game is strong. “We all know finals series are a completely different game and anything can happen on day, and it’s really important for us as a collective that we’re all doing it together.”

The Magpies have enjoyed welcoming a host of Oakleigh Chargers players who stepped up from NAB League Girls and AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships level to don the black and white stripes at VFLW level. Cula-Reid said their fast-tracked development compared to predecessors and current AFLW players was noticeable, and while the game style had been tweaked, it was the young “superstars” that were having an impact in 2019.

I still think the anti-density rule that something teams can expose if they know how to stick to a gameplan,” she said. “But really important, I think it’s just the game, you see these young 18-year-olds coming through and they’re just bloody superstars. “You get them when they’re coming off a championships up in Queensland and we’ve got, Gemma Lagioia, Nicola Xenos and Amelia Van Oosterwijck who unfortunately did her ankle, but these are the kids who have been playing high-level football at the highest possible level they can at such a young age and they just bring a completely different dynamic into our team. “We’re just really excited for them and all the other 18-year-olds who are playing through the finals series, and obviously the draft is coming up so no better time to see them in action than the finals series.”

The Oakleigh Chargers link is one that is going strong for the Magpies, with Cula-Reid working with the NAB League Girls club, to continue their development pathway up to the top level.

“It’s been great,” Cula-Reid said of the two club’s affiliation. “We’ve been very fortunate, especially last year. We had two girls from the Oakleigh Chargers in Katie Lynch and Daisy Bateman both getting drafted to teams, so fantastic exposure for them and I get the chance to go down to training, watch a few of their games, have a chat to their coach Luke (O’Shannessy), and it’s just great for us that we get that talent pool. “But we’re juggling the fact that they play private school football as well, so it’s a bit of a catch-22, we get some of the best talent, but we’ve also got to make sure their schooling is number one.”

The Magpies held the key to the 2019 AFL Women’s Draft with multiple first and second round picks to select the likes of Lynch and Mikala Cann. It is a very different looking story heading into 2020, with the club not making a selection until Pick 67. But considering what the Magpies brought in, Cula-Reid said it was worth the wait.

“We had a great recruit in Brianna Davey and I think for that, she’s worth all the draft picks in the world to be honest,” Cula-Reid. “What she brings to the team is phenomenal. “There’s so much young talent out there, the exposure and the opportunity to have access to the resources that we have at Collingwood and we’ve got some of the best coaches there, like Nathan Buckley who was coach of the year last year and we get to tap into the men’s system as well, so fantastic for us that we get that development from a coaching perspective and now we’ve got a new coach in Steve Symonds, and again his expertise in what he brings to the club … look out for us in 2020.”

Cula-Reid said the introduction of Symonds to the club was a massive benefit and that the pair worked well together in terms of their focus on development and coaching beliefs.

“He came in July, so it was sort of just a one person show until then,” she said. “But he’s taken Norwood to three grand finals, he’s worked in coach development, he’s worked in player development, he’s worked coaching at the highest level too, he’s coached at Adelaide as well. “We’ve very excited and very lucky and fortunate to have someone like Steve come in and he’s taken me under his wing, and like I’ve been saying to a lot of the people that we actually read from the same book, he’s just a few chapters in front of me. I come in to say good morning to him and we sit there for like 40 minutes just talking about football and I’m like ‘we haven’t even started my day yet and we’re already talking footy’ but he’s great having around the club. “Very invested, very involved with the girls, especially in the VFL program. “Obviously moving into the AFL program, he wants to build from here and move into the AFL season.”

Potentially the Magpies could look from within to find the next AFLW star, developing their current and possibly future AFLW players.

“It’s really important for our AFL girls to get experience and exposure in other positions, because on gameday anything can happen and to have that flexibility to throw them from one end of the field to the other, chuck them on the wing or inside mid, it’s part of their football development,” Cula-Reid said. “If we think footy IQ is really important, there’s no way better than if you’re a one-dimensional player, you’re not going to get many opportunities, but if we can throw you up one end of the field or the other, that’s great exposure for them and great development for them, and we’ve got such a young list that anything is possible with these girls, so we’re pretty excited about that.”

Now with the finals about to commence, Cula-Reid has squarely focused on the next month as the Magpies look to win their maiden VFLW premiership. While the Saints are the biggest threat to the Magpies on paper, Cula-Reid said any one of the finals sides could take out the premiership.

“You can’t go past Southern Saints,” she said. “They’re pretty phenomenal all season. “We only met them in Round 1, and unfortunately for us we only had 24 players to pick from on our list then, so I think this weekend’s going to be a different story but they’ve come in leaps and bound. “You can’t go past Richmond, lucky enough for us to win after the siren, and Geelong’s back in the finals series again, you’ve got Melbourne Uni also affiliated with North Melbourne and then you can’t go past any of the other teams in the competition, so anything can happen on the day.”

Collingwood hosts Southern Saints at their spiritual home of Victoria Park from 12pm on Saturday, August 31.

Travel just the beginning for Bella Smith

TWELVE hours in the car to get to and from training and games is not the first choice for any budding footballer, but for Bella Smith, it was an easy choice when the Eyre Peninsula local opted to play women’s football in Adelaide. Whilst she did end up moving to Adelaide in the recent years, Smith still remembers the long car journeys to begin her career in the sport she loved.

“I’m originally from Eyre Peninsula so I started playing with the boys up until I was 14 until I was told I wasn’t able to play anymore with the boys,” Smith said. “So I gave it up for a bit because I wasn’t allowed in. “I ended up moving to Adelaide when I was 16 and brought it back up. Had my first season with the girls last year and went from there. “(I) went from under 17s with Norwood, and got into the Under 18s team last year and the Allies last year. (I) came back again this year with the Norwood SANFL team.”

The success of Norwood in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s has helped Smith develop and learn from some of the most talented footballers in the country. It was such a successful program that Head Coach Steve Symonds earned the chance at coaching the elite competition at Collingwood in the AFL Women’s for the 2020 season. Smith said the group was close and wanted to achieve success together, and while they missed out on the elusive premiership this year, they still loved the season.

“It was awesome to be in such a successful team,” she said. “We had such a great minor rounds series and we were just a really tight knit group. “We all wanted to get better, we were all training as a squad and it was really good to be in that sort of environment just learning off other players such as Sally Riley when she’d come back from the Crows. “It was just so good to learn from people who had been so successful.”

Over the years, Smith has noticed a marked improvement in the talent across the board in women’s football, with both the competition and training standards held in much higher regards.

“The talent is just growing more and more,” Smith said. “It’s just getting more competitive and the elite standards. “The standards have just grown so much – just over the past year and it’s just going to continue to grow so much.”

For all the travel as she paved the way to her eventual state representation at the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, Smith said there was always the passion burning inside her. Smith thanked her parents for their support and credited them for inspiring her to believe in herself and her career.

“I have my parents have to thank for that, they had to give up so much for me to keep travelling and ended up moving me over,” she said. “Just having that support behind me has been awesome.”

As for on-field, an AFL Women’s premiership captain has been one who Smith has looked up to and tried to model her game on and off the field.

“If I’m talking about role models, I’d probably say Chelsea Randall,” Smith said. “I just think she’s such a fierce competitor. Just the way she plays, I just love watching her play, it’s just so awesome. Watching her train and her work ethic, it’s just so admirable.”

While her top-age year has crept up, The 182cm Smith has been working hard to continually improve her game and hope to take it to another level going forward.

“I think working on would be probably my athleticism, just getting more endurance into me,” Smith said. “As well as using my body a bit more, probably my strengths are my hands and my kicking. I’m able to take a few good marks here and there and can kick a fair distance which is good and efficient.”

South Australian College football prepares for revamp

A TRADITIONAL football system is getting a revamp, with the Adelaide College football turning to a multi-tier system involving promotion and relegation, and we look at how it works, what it means and how the College football and State league can work together for the best possible results.

College football has a long and proud tradition in Adelaide, in fact next year, two of the oldest colleges, Prince Alfred College (PAC) and St Peters will play in their 150th annual Intercol, and in 2017, Sacred Heart and Rostrevor College completed their 95th year of Intercol competing. This tradition has resulted in an agreement with the SANFL that prioritizes a player to be allowed to play for their College side over their South Australia National Football League (SANFL) side. In almost all cases players named in an SANFL league team are released for SANFL duty.

The SA College system has a long production line of AFL Players with some recent draftees since 2014 including:

For PAC: Zac Bailey, Mitch Crowden, Aaron Francis, Riley Bonner, Cam Hewett, Harrison Wigg. 
Sacred Heart: Charlie Ballard, Mitchell Hinge, Liam Mackie, Alex Neal-Bullen, Keenan Ramsey, Cory Gregson, Ryan Burton.
St Peters: Will Hayward, Matt Allen
Rostrevor: Darcy Fogarty, Harry Petty, Toby Pink
Also from other colleges include Callum Coleman-Jones, Andrew McPherson, Lewis Young, Luke Partington and Stefan Giro.

The talent at College football is deep and keeping tabs and reporting on the performances of those players important.

2018 College Football System 

The 2018 season will see SA College football have a revamp, culminating in a new system of promotion and relegation with a top level Premier League and a north and south Championship League. It is a bit complex, but here is how it will work for 2018:

Stage 1:  The Premier division will start with six teams: PAC, Sacred Heart, Rostrevor, St Peters, Immanuel and St Michaels. There will then be a Championship North conference: Trinity, St Ignatius, Westminster, Blackfriars, Marryatville and PAC 2.  The Championship South conference will include: Scotch, Mercedes, CBC, Pembroke, Adelaide High and Sacred Heart 2.  Stage 1 games will involve all schools in their respective grades playing each other once. At which point re-grading will take place. 

Stage 2:  The bottom two Premier League teams will be relegated to the Championship league. The top team in the North and South Conference will be promoted to the Premier League.  Also the next 12 teams will then be regraded into two further divisions of 6 to allow hopefully all schools to be more evenly matched for Stage 2 of the season.
Stage 2 will see each team play each other again for the premiership in each division.

Finals: In the Premier League the top team will go straight into the State Championship grand final, with the second placed team to play a preliminary final against the highest ranked State school.  So in 2017 Sacred Heart was defeated by Henley High in the preliminary final, then with Henley going into the Grand Final against PAC, resulting in victory to PAC in a thrilling contest.

So during the season the typical under 18 draftable college player will play five to six SANFL games, then start College football for five games, then two to three back in the SANFL during school holidays, and then another five to six College games, before SANFL finals kick in.

SANFL vs College Football 

Whilst there is a peace between the SANFL and the College System, there is always some debate about the merits of College football, as compared to the development and recognised elite pathway through the SANFL.  However those in the College system will argue that College footy presents those players with a pure football experience, focused on team and character rather than individual performance and stats, as well as the opportunity to still play SANFL, and exposure to a college education.

Many country-based players are given this option to board at a city-based college and this gives them the opportunity to play all forms, whereas otherwise a seven0hour round trip for a Lucindale-based player such as Darcy Fogarty, may not be feasible.  It should also be noted that the College teams are now often coached by ex-AFL/SANFL players and have support structures similar to SANFL clubs.  In 2017 College coaches included ex-AFL/SANFL players and coaches in Martin McKinnon, Jon Symonds, Steve Symonds, Brett Chalmers, Darren Trevena, and Andrew McLeod

Those in the SANFL may well argue that by doing both you do not promote yourself as best you can.  An interesting outcome of College football is that there is no Champion Data on games and generally these games are not videoed.  So it is quite common to see a bunch of recruiters at these College games, tracking the performances of these potential AFL players. Whilst the best players will go through, there are also the fringe players who do not get through because AFL teams haven’t got enough data to make that call. 

This is an interesting debate. An example from last year involves a player not getting selected for SANFL Under 18 games, but playing College football. Recruiters attending college games noticed this player and upon noting his lack of SANFL games, questioned the club and he was subsequently selected in his SANFL Under 18s club game where he had some excellent performances. After this he was  invited to the SA State based AFL Combine and ended up playing in a SANFL reserves final.  And he met with a number of AFL clubs. This player was not subsequently drafted.  Feedback was positive, “we liked what we saw, just didn’t see enough”, and encouraging for future years. Did College football help this player get noticed? Absolutely.  Did SANFL footy help this player? Not to start with and then absolutely. There are pros and cons to both systems and many examples both ways of the benefits if the AFL path is what you want.

A perfect example of where school football and a state development league did work out however, was Sandringham Dragons’ Nathan Murphy, who missed out on being picked for the Dragons initially, and then after some superb form in the APS competition, made it onto the Dragons list mid-season and by the end of the year, had found a home in the AFL, selected by Collingwood in the National Draft.

But in the meantime, the culmination of a College football year is the end-of-season Intercol game between traditional rivals. An experience not to be missed as player or spectator.  The week of festivities, with thousands watching the game, and the post-match with each team being swamped by hundreds of school mates, presentation of trophies and speeches is AFL Grand Final like – just minus Mr Brightside.