The GB Swans – An eventful semi-final week 

Following the previous evening’s function in town that was hosted by the British Consulate, Thursday began with recovery in the pool at the hotel. This was expertly led by head coach Garth and assistant Lea. It was the perfect balance of active recovery and light-hearted humour for the sore bodies from the Fiji game. The majority of the squad then made their way to Princes Park to experience life at the Carlton Football Club.


After raiding the club shop for souvenirs, the girls and those Bulldogs that had decided to make the trip made their way onto the ground for a kick. Before long a few of the Carlton players had made their way out to field questions and engage in conversation with members of both squads. The girls were delighted when Darcy Vescio and Brianna Davey made their way outside – Lauren Spark (assistant coach) is really using her contacts well for the girls! Cue heaps of group photos, selfies, etc…


That evening, some of the squad made their way over to Caulfield Bears – the boys to train and the girls to get a feel for a local footy club. We were treated to a feed and then a performance from The Suburban Footballer, which was a great way to end a busy day!


For me personally, Friday provided the highlight of a busy week. I’m sure a lot of the girls would back me up with this sentiment. Through Sparky (again) we had lined up a two-hour training session at the Katie Brennan Performance Centre in Coburg. Here we were given insight into the preparation, training and dedication required to become top-class female athletes by Katie herself, and Melissa Hickey. As players, I know the girls will have gained lots from the session but also as a coach, especially coaching female athletes, I certainly gained a lot from the session. Thanks Katie – I will be taking some of your tips and training drills back to the UK with me!



With quite a lot of time between games we could squeeze in an hour-long training session early on Saturday morning. We didn’t go through anything too strenuous, more some simple drills to keep the girls’ legs ticking over and polish up some skills before facing Canada in our final group game the following day. Several of the girls attended Essendon v Adelaide in the evening, eager to take in as much football as possible in our time in Australia. As a Crows fan, I was delighted with the result and am hoping for some early mornings deep into September upon my return to the UK.


Sunday’s game was hosted by the Diamond Creek Women’s Football Club. We boarded the coach that morning eagerly anticipating a clash with the current International Cup champions, on a beautiful day. We had taken the decision to leave a few key players out for this game, notably key forward Caroline Sellar and on-baller Lisa Wilson, with our place in the semi-finals already assured following the two wins previously. This was a not a decision that was taken lightly but deemed necessary to improve our chances of beating the old rivals Ireland only two days later. The game didn’t go exactly to plan as we failed to capitalise on a strong wind that blew down the ground at times and despite some heroic defensive performances when kicking into the wind, we came out second-best to a formidable Canadian outfit. We are delighted to have struck up a good relationship with the coaching staff of Canada in particular, and the girls enjoy testing themselves against the best. If the defeat wasn’t disappointing enough, a sickening fractured ankle to midfielder Lucy Jones, who had featured on the best list in the previous two games, was a real blow to her and the group as a whole.



Following this it was back to the accommodation for the squad to regroup and recover before a huge semi-final clash against the Irish for a place in the Grand Final at Etihad.



The day after any game always begins with a set meet time in the pool at our accommodation, although head coach Garth and I are both on a ‘get fit’ regime which sees us in the gym most(!) mornings before the girls begin to congregate. These sessions mostly take the same shape each time with a combination of poolside stretching, stretching in the sauna and mobility work in the pool. With only 36 hours between games this may have been the most vital recovery session of our entire trip!


The recovery session aside, it was a day off for the squad until an evening team meeting to discuss the next day’s semi-final. I took the time to do some admin bits and pieces and generally rest a bit after a hectic week and a half since landing. I have found it quite mentally draining to be so involved in the games without physically exerting anything towards the result!


When it came to the team meeting, again, we faced the unenviable task of leaving people out of the match-day squad. There was some obvious disappointment in the girls being left out and rightly so. The semi-final is a huge game for everyone and as a collective we have been working towards it for around two years.


The morning of game day began with a walk around the nearby Carlton Gardens. The girls were in good spirits heading into the biggest game for Great British women’s footy since its inception only two years previously. We have played the Irish side numerous times recently and have always fared reasonably well, albeit in tightly contested matches. The main difference between the last Irish side we played and this one would be their girls that are based in Australia already.


Our game was delayed by an hour due to a nasty collision between an American and Canadian girl in their semi-final which at least meant that we all got to watch the boys’ superb performance v Fiji to ensure that they will get a best IC finish of 5th or 6th this year. Once the girls had warmed up, and re-warmed up they were ready to go and hit the front early against Ireland. In fact, we lead for most of the game. I think this is what made the eventual eight-point defeat more disappointing. When we reflect on the game we will look at a lot of inside 50s that didn’t lead to goals and not taking advantage of the wind blowing down the ground when we had it behind us. Full credit to our opponents though, as they kept us within striking distance and were composed and clinical enough to finish the job when they got their opportunities.


Next up for us is a lot of recovery work and a 3rd place playoff v the USA!


  1. bring back the torp says

    Do you think the top 2 women’s IC GF teams, within 3-4 days of the IC GF would each like to play an evening match under lights, against 2 VFLW teams (the 2 VFLW teams would be All Stars from the VFLW – but only pick players who have played adult women’s football for less than 4 years)?

    I understand the British Swans come from a variety of sporting backgrounds. Would you care to make a comparison of the AVERAGE level of athleticism of your players, to the average VWFL player?

    Some are speculating that, from 2019, the minimum pay for a short season in the AFLW might increase from $8500 min. to c. $15000 min. (& season to increase to at least 9 matches).
    Are there many Swans (or Canadian/Irish women) who you think would seriously consider trialling for an AFLW side (10 or 12 clubs in 2019); and/or a VFLW side in 2019?

    Is accurate kicking, under pressure & on the run, the most difficult skill for Swans’ players to master?
    What would the other main obstacle to be overcome before it was likely a place could be won in a VFLW/AFLW side?

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