The key word for the Emmaus St Leo’s Football Club on Saturday was ‘hunt’. And hunt they did with the men’s teams taking out their Westbourne opponents comfortably in their returns from some hefty time off. But for the Animalettes, their hunting efforts on the field weren’t reflected on the scoreboard once again, losing out to the second-placed Preston Bullants. The immense pride Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team walked off W.R. Ruthven Reserve with was well-deserved after they took the game to their opponents every step of the way.

Mental toughness has been a key component of the Animalettes in 2019, particularly in the latter part of the season as they struggle with numbers, but they have done nothing less than impress those who follow them with their ability to push through despite not-ideal circumstances. With one on the bench, they started off the game well but Preston’s speed through the midfield allowed them a few quick shots on goal, putting them in a superior position going into the quarter time break 4.1.25 to the Animalettes’ three zeroes. 

In the second quarter, Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team’s defensive efforts started to show on the scoreboard, limiting Preston to just one goal for the entire term, while they added two behinds to the scoreline. The third quarter is where Preston started to kick away, with the Animalettes’ pressure dropping off just slightly and their opponents taking advantage. They added three goals and four behinds to zero, pretty much cementing the win late in the third. 

But that didn’t deter Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team, who came out of the third quarter break with a strong mentality of finishing off the game the only way they knew how. In true Animals fashion, they toughed out the final 20 minutes, never giving up despite being down by so much. A scoreboard reprieve came late in the fourth quarter, when Shannon Harris tackled a Preston player inside the forward 50. The pressure resulted in a throw, with the umpire paying a free kick and putting Harris within range. Movement in the goalsquare didn’t deter her at all as she sent the ball straight through for a goal, the wind behind her. Jubilant cheers came from everywhere, with everybody running in for a tight hug. The celebration for a goal, despite being down by a significant amount so late in the last quarter, is a cornerstone of the Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team and sets an unbreakable culture both on field and off field. Preston finished the game 9.8.62 to the Animalettes’ 1.3.9.

Head-of-media-turned-coach Geoff Koop was so proud of the fight shown by all 19 of his charges. ‘You can’t ask for more from your players than a pure fight and desire.’ He believes it to be the basis of a good performance and that it’s something the Animalettes have been showing for the past month. 

Particular efforts that should be lauded in a tough and gritty loss include Shino Walsh, who played a shutdown tagging role on one of Preston’s best for a majority of the second term and all of the second half, coming out on top and it was these efforts that undoubtedly impressed Koop. ‘She’s had a solid debut year, but Saturday was her best performance bar none, and she thrived in a role not often seen in the women’s game. She ran with arguably one of the best female players in the VAFA, and not only nullified her threat, but altered the entire team’s focus at a crucial time in the game.

Walsh wasn’t the only one to impress Koop, who couldn’t speak more highly of Shellby Lonie’s game and her season, believing her to have the best positioning in the division. ‘Her ability to pop up continuously in the right spot, whether it be down back, across the middle, or up front is an asset any team would desire.’ And not surprisingly so, Sarah Morley also gets a special mention, with Koop enjoying the way her gamebreaking ability and run gets her team out of trouble on multiple occasions. 

This weekend, the Animalettes will run out onto the ground for the last time in 2019. They’ll be facing the Hampton Rovers away at Boss James Reserve at 10:30am. Hampton are coming off a pretty comprehensive win against Oakleigh while Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team will look to regroup after their loss and finish off their season with their fifth win.