Football season for Emmaus St Leo’s officially kicks off this weekend at home at Bennettswood Reserve where the Animalettes will be looking to get one over a team looking for redemption in the Preston Bullants, who finished at the top of Division 3 last year. After a standout season which saw the team into the grand final, Preston will have asked many questions of themselves over their preseason after losing to Westbourne Grammarians, and be without a doubt looking for answers when they take the field. Emmaus St Leo’s will be hoping to prove to not only others but themselves what they’re capable of, coming off the back of what was a pretty incredible debut season.

The two teams met each other twice in the 2018 season, with Preston coming away winners both times after hard-fought afternoon games. The scoreboard for those games never reflected the effort and determination that Emmaus St Leo’s prides themselves on as a football club and was shown on the days. Despite losing by more than 40 points, the women’s team gritted their teeth and didn’t give in and they’ll look to bring that kind of attitude to Saturday’s clash.

Intensity and commitment at training has set a really high benchmark of what’s expected on game day and it’s of no real surprise that one of the focuses for Saturday will be centred around team play and having each other’s backs. Coach Roy Fenton and former-team-manager-now-assistant-coach Brendan Ellwood are both looking forward to what the day brings, and are keen to see how training translates into a game, as well as seeing how the new girls handle the excitement and nerves.

Team selection news has Emmaus St Leo’s with seven debuts, with Bec Herne, Kate Fletcher, Ashleigh Morley, Delaney Morvell, Emily Kerr, Tara Ingham and Cassy Dutton getting the opportunity to don the blue and blue for the first time. Sally Hood, Shanelle Blachford and Sam Bridgland also get their first chance to run out onto the ground as captain and vice captains respectively.

In the defensive 50, Herne, Claire Anderson and Brooke Chapman will start deep, with Fletcher, Bridgland and Dee Burden sharing the load at halfback. Morley and Ingham are joined by Soraya Jeanes in the midfield, with Bridget Monaghan in ruck, Blachford named as ruck rover, and Shellby Lonie getting her chance as rover. Dreams do come true for players like Hood who gets her preseason wish and will start at half forward, joined by newcomers in Morvell and Kerr. Pushing up the ground in the forward half is Maddy Hogan, while Jess Evans and Sheridan Harris will share the deep forward role. Shannon Harris, Sam Hogarth, Caroline Simon, and Dutton round out the bench. Notable outs include Rhiannon Stute, Kate Lucas, Kate Versace and Amy Ronchi, who will all look to return for round two.

There are a few similarities between Emmaus St Leo’s and Preston this year, with both teams more than likely fielding sides with more than a few new faces. But that won’t matter much once the ball is bounced, with Emmaus St Leo’s looking to set a new standard after too many slow starts last season. By the time the Animalettes take the field, it’ll have been 283 days since their last game.

The wait will have been worth it! Within the club, there’s been a huge focus over preseason on maintaining the close, ‘Animals family’ that’s naturally continued with the addition of the women’s side, so get down to Bennettswood Reserve on Saturday morning and support the ladies! First bounce is at 9.20am.

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