It was always going to be a tough ask for the Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team, who came into the game against the Hampton Rovers on Saturday without a bench. But on the ground at home at Bennettswood Reserve, the Animalettes started well and were competitive all day, unfortunately falling short by being unable to make an impact on the scoreboard. They had a high inside 50s count, and arguably won the contests at ground level, while also taking countless strong marks up and down the field.

The intensity and passion was high the whole morning, the team never dropping their heads even towards the dying stages. It’s something that Assistant Coach Brendan Ellwood was impressed with, stating that ‘we threw the challenge to them to show some grit and determination, particularly when they were tiring at the end, and they came with the right attitude.’ Head Coach Roy Fenton was impressed with how everyone played out the game, as ‘it’s tough when there are no rotations.

That didn’t stop the Animalettes from tackling hard and putting pressure on the ball carrier, with Ellwood enjoying the fact that his team looked ready to get down and win the football. ‘We had some very good passages of play, where our kicks to each other landed well,’ Fenton says, also happy with how the backline stood firm and how the midfield battled hard.

Both coaches can’t speak more highly of Sam Hogarth who not only played her best game of the year, but her best game for the club. ‘Sammy was a highlight of the day for me. She brought a level of intensity and determination we have never seen from her before and showed what an impact she can have when she backs herself and has a real crack. So many repeat efforts and coach-pleasing “non-glamour” plays. The challenge is now there for her to do this consistently and hold herself accountable to this standard,’ Ellwood says. Fenton agrees vehemently, lauding her second and third efforts as fantastic.

It was the new girls all over the ground who the coaches got excited about, with Kate Fletcher, Grace de Cesare, and Kayla Hetherington all being named amongst the best on the day. ‘Kate had her best game, backed herself a bit more and won some footy, while putting on some important defensive pressure. Grace looks dangerous every time she gets it on the outside.’ And it’s Hetherington who has everybody shocked with her claim that she’s never played football before given that she looks like a complete natural in the backline with Ellwood impressed by her instinctive timing in aerial contests.

Second-year players in Shellby Lonie and Dee Burden are putting together consistent games of good football, with Ellwood impressed by Lonie’s ability to read the play better than anybody else and how damaging she is on the rebound. Burden was switched out of the backline for some time on-ball and did really well, going in hard at the footy and sticking big tackles.

The Animalettes’ only score of the game came late in the fourth quarter, with Delaney Morvell nailing a handball out the back of the pack to Lonie, who’d somehow found her way forward despite playing in the backline. Her eyes lit up as she collected on the 50 metre line and barrelled forward, slotting the ball through close to the left post. It was a celebratory moment, with the reward finally coming from some hard-ball gets and some composed actions despite some defensive pressure from Hampton. They may have ran away winners, finishing the game 5.5.35 to 1.0.6, but it was efforts like that that heighten the belief that Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team have in themselves.

Ellwood knows there is room for improvement, particularly in his team’s ability to hit the scoreboard. ‘Once again, the scoreline is misleading. Overall, it’s another week where the pieces are all there, with a few unlucky moments and brief lapses letting the scoreboard tell a different tale. If we can get a few forwards consistently converting opportunities, it’ll go a long way.’ This week, the Animalettes make the trek over to Basil Reserve to visit some familiar foes in Prahran Assumption. There’s redemption to be won, with Emmaus St Leo’s losing both games they played against them last year and fielding a different side this year. First bounce is at 11:40!