Persistence, hard work, and sheer weight of territorial dominance saw a ‘rowdy’ Swinburne University fail to hold on to a 3-goal half time lead as Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team, for the second week running, staged a stirring comeback victory. It was a win that Assistant Coach Brendan Ellwood was ecstatic with despite the slow start on the scoreboard.
“Despite falling behind on the scoreboard, I'm not too worried about the start. On paper it looked slow, but the girls were actually playing decent footy. Once we tightened up a few fundamentals, we were on top.”
The Animalettes once again applied early pressure with the ball locked in their forward half for the majority of the quarter, until a quick Swinburne slingshot move saw them dribble home the opener. A small break in the game followed with injuries to both sides halting play, before Swinburne quickly nabbed a second goal and established a margin to work with.
The second quarter would be a carbon copy of the first with extended periods of forward pressure for the Animalettes going unrewarded, before the only forward 50 entry of the quarter led to another goal just making it across the line as Swinburne enacted another well-executed counter. The work of Paige Nash off halfback continued to see the Animalettes launch raid after raid into the Swinburne defence but a flood of numbers back saw them clog up any free space and hold a 3.0 to 0.1 lead in to halftime.
But the game switched after the long break. The Animalettes came out the more focused of the two teams and whether it was the magic words of Ellwood and Head Coach Roy Fenton or a lapse of focus from Swinburne, Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team applied even more pressure than before, and it was rewarded. Captain Sally Hood nabbed her fourth goal of the young season as she got the handball receive from Jess Evans at 40 out and ran her allocation before calmly slotting home the Animalettes’ first and lighting the blue touch paper for the rest of the game.
Hood’s new-found home up front has allowed the discovery of Shellby Lonie’s rebound 50 capabilities, something not lost on Ellwood.
“Being able to send Sally forward has been great for us, she gives an experienced head and mobile presence who can lead, mark and win the footy at ground level. Shellby's versatility is fast becoming a vital factor to our success - she has already shown she can make an impact up forward, and when we were falling behind on Saturday she went back and steadied the ship, thriving across halfback, despite the fact that she doesn't like leaving the forward line. We also know that she can be damaging on ball and is a great clearance player.” But this is only enabled by the step up of some established players and the rise of newcomers. “The reason they are able to move to new positions is thanks to the emergence of some returning players (e.g Sam Bridgland at CHB and Rhiannon Stute/Shanelle Blachford in the middle) and the immediate impact of some new girls (e.g Bec Herne, Tara Ingham, Shino Walsh).”
Walsh and Herne have slotted in nicely to a backline that is ever-evolving, and quickly becoming a force within the division. After suffering a battering in round one, a siege mentality sees those who enter the 50 met with a ferocity on the football that is hardly matched in the league above board.
In the middle is where the real surprises come however, with Blachford, Stute, and newcomer Ingham beginning to form a partnership that rivals that of Kerr, Cousins, and Judd. They’re a catapult forward and an immovable wall when fought against, and it’s showing in the pressure being able to be applied by the Animalettes in 2019.
It was Ingham in the final term who would kick a goal to get her team to within a point, and through sheer weight of time, territory, and possession, Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team kicked ahead point by point with less than a minute remaining. For the first time in the quarter after the go-ahead point, Swinburne made it past halfway, only to meet Lonie as the first line of defence. Her superior marking ability saw her easily cut off the final roll of the Swinburne dice and secure back to back wins for the first time in the women’s team’s short history.
“Tackling was a highlight all day. As Roy put it, we really wore them down over the four quarters and when the game was on the line with a few minutes to go, our ability to lock the ball in our forward line was crucial,” said Ellwood, as he and Fenton are now faced with the unenviable task of taking down a UHS-VU team which has swamped all before them. If it is to come down to the wire though, you’ll find the coaching staff confident of the result.
“To win tight games you need to be able to find a way to step up when you're behind or challenged, and to display that on Saturday shows once again the character within this group.”
The Animalettes travel to the zoo to take on UHS-VU (3-0) in an 11.40am start this weekend, and will look to not only knock off one of the form teams in the division, but cement a spot in the top 4 early in the season.