On a history-making weekend, Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team kicked off proceedings with a hard-fought 12-point win after making the trek over to Ted Ajani Reserve to play the Bulleen-Templestowe Bullants for the first time. Following the women’s game, the men’s reserves team smashed Parkside by 110 points with the seniors team coming away 55-point winners after an intense battle.

After a less-than-perfect first round, the Animalettes started their game off a little bit sluggishly like they were paying homage to the season past but kicked it up a notch as the game wore on. At the quarter-time break, the Bullants had a 6-point lead, which would be the only time they would spend in front. The main break and 3-quarter-time saw the Emmaus St Leo’s women up by one point and after a rousing speech from Head Coach Roy Fenton about playing out the game in our style, the women came out firing again in the fourth quarter.

Captain Sally Hood kept everyone on their toes all game, kicking a goal a quarter before Gab Biedenweg-Webster kicked her second in the 4th, having kicked her first in the 2nd quarter. The movement in the forward line allowed for some beautiful running goal opportunities that were well and truly taken advantage of. There were some dramatic scenes in the third quarter where a goal kicked by Paige Nash ended up being called a behind after a Bullants player took it upon herself to say it hit the post. Amy ‘Goalsneak’ Ronchi in her first game of the season subconsciously decided to bring back the nickname given to her in the first game of last season, floating down to the goalsquare to receive the ball from a Shellby Lonie kick, who had busted through the pack on the 50-metre line and gone for a run. Whether she meant to kick it to Ronchi or not remains to be seen!

The feeling out on the ground on Saturday was something different. Atmospherically, the will to win was incredibly strong, with actions encompassing every ounce of Animals spirit. Contests were hard, the pressure on the ball-carrier was constant. The second efforts of the ladies were second to none with leads all over the ground resulting in beautiful passages of play where targets were well and truly hit. The backline were tested for most of the last quarter but stood strong, the Bullants only adding 1 point to their score during the entire 20 minutes. It’s of no real surprise that the Animalettes ran away winners, finishing the game 6.7.43 to Bulleen-Templestowe’s 4.7.31.

Assistant Coach Brendan Ellwood was most impressed by the consistent effort. ‘We were in control of the game for at least three quarters, and the girls upheld the fundamentals and worked well as a team.’ The little things were also crucial to the game, with consistent talk around the contests showing in the way they played. Ellwood is also enjoying the structure of the team at the moment, as the emergence of a few girls has allowed Hood and Lonie to push forward without weakening the midfield and making the Animalettes look all the more dangerous.

And though football is a team sport, the assistant coach lauds the efforts of Dee Burden in particular. ‘We know she can be a good rebounding defender, but what impressed me was her ability and willingness to contest marks against much taller girls. She was outsized all day, but her efforts were crucial.’ Another player who keeps getting better every time she takes the field is Tara Ingham who Ellwood calls a ‘quiet achiever’ but he loved how involved she was in everything and how hard she ran to make good position. He also recognises where there’s room for improvement, stating that ‘the challenge for us is to perform like this consistently. Last year, we were really up and down on any given day, so we need to play like this, week in, week out. Our defensive transition after a turnover could do with some improvement, plus not getting caught drifting off our opponents. But overall, the win was a really strong performance with a lot of character.’ Fenton vehemently agrees, impressed with the pressure applied despite the attention the team was getting from the opposition.

The Animalettes win started off a massive weekend for Emmaus St Leo’s Football Club, who lost a valued, long-time member of the club in Brendan Bourke during the week with all three teams wearing black armbands in support. If there was ever a day to sum up the Animals spirit and all that encompasses it, it would be Saturday. It really is family at Bennettswood Reserve and it’s not hard to see. Following the three wins, which hasn’t happened since the inception of the women’s team, was the club’s first function of the year and was undoubtedly a hit, given the cause for celebration.

This coming weekend sees a VAFA-wide bye, which means the next time the Animalettes run out onto the field, it’ll be at home for the first triple header of the year, playing Division 3 newcomers Swinburne University. Get down to watch the ladies at 9:20am and stick around to see the men take on Richmond Central!