It’s a new-look women’s side this year for Emmaus St Leo’s, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not the same team that captured everybody’s attention last year in a brilliant debut season. It’s pretty safe to say that there weren’t any unnecessary expectations of a first-year women’s team but if there had been any, they would have been well and truly surpassed.

This year, with 12 new additions, 20 returning players and three VFL listed players registered, the excitement is high. And while the Animalettes still have their most-trusted stalwarts returning in the likes of newly-appointed captain Sally Hood, Shellby Lonie, and Jess Evans, it’s the new faces that have impressed immensely over preseason.

There’s no real sign that Tara Ingham is fresh to playing football. The minute she showed up to preseason training, she’s been a natural talent. She’s got an expert brain for being able to read the play and a natural ability to position herself where she’s needed to help out her teammates. And on the back of a fantastic practice-match effort, Ingham is one to keep an eye on this season. As long as she’s not running rings about her opponents and you can actually see her on the ground!

Emily Kerr may be young, but she looks like she’s been playing football for years. She picks up things lightning fast and uses her initiative to take control of the play. Her kicking is incredibly reliable and she’ll be dangerous in front of goal, and can absolutely run for days.

Another newcomer to Emmaus St Leo’s is Shino Walsh, whose second, third, and fourth efforts are incredible to watch. Her ability to cover ground and get to the football, and then win it will definitely become a standard that will hopefully inspire the rest of the team.

Not so much of a new face but more a valued piece in the Emmaus St Leo’s line up is returning player Shannon Harris. A big improver over preseason whose knowledge of football theory helps out her practical application. She’ll be one to watch if she brings 100% effort every game. Another player whose improvement over preseason has been impressive to see is Shanelle Blachford, who will look to make her mark on the game, and in the minds and ears of her opponents.

Rhiannon Stute is one of those players that the whole women’s side feels lucky to have on their side, if only so that they’re not charged at during game day. A ferocious attacker of the ball, last year Stute became fairly well known pretty quickly not only for her tackling pressure, but also for her love of the ‘don’t argue’. If Dustin Martin hasn’t trademarked it yet, Stute might be onto something.

In all honesty, Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team is looking incredible this season, with every single new player slotting in perfectly and making it feel like they’ve been around from the beginning. Every week training gets better and better, and with consistency being a huge key for the Animalettes in 2019, it’s shaping up to be an amazing year.