Women’s Footy – VFL: Moana Hope

When the half time siren blew on St Kilda’s Round 3 clash with the VU Western Spurs at the Henry Turner Memorial Reserve, it ended two quarters in which full forward Moana Hope had unexpectedly struggled against Spurs’ full back Lauren Senserrick. She had been outpositioned in every contest and was goalless after kicking fourteen in her first two matches.

Many players would have been contemplating how to turn their match around, or even bitterly compiling excuses for their performance. However Hope’s team needed her to be more than that; they were in trouble against the Spurs, who had executed a lock-down game plan against the side who had beaten them by 97 and 52 points in their 2015 encounters. So Hope rallied her team as they were walking off the ground, taking the time to approach individual players for a pep-talk.

“I try to make sure I get around to everyone and make sure I’m as supportive to them as they are to me,” says Hope, 24, before training at St Kilda’s famed Peanut Farm Reserve.

It corresponds with Hope’s relentless pursuit of improvement that she can become a leader on the rare times that she can be disappointed at her on field performances.

The Sharks broke free of the Spurs in the final quarter and went on to win by 32 points. Hope kicked two goals to kick start their resurgence but was left ruing a “terrible” match. She went back to the drawing board, analysing her game and identifying ways of turning those vulnerabilities into strengths.

2016 is a momentous year for Victorian Women’s Football. State League, the highest tier of amateur football, was expanded to comprise of ten teams in order to fast-track the development of players for the imminent establishment of an eight team Women’s AFL competition in 2017. St Kilda now sit just outside the top four and are preparing for their upcoming clash with the undefeated Darebin Falcons. Darebin have kicked off the season in typically outstanding form in their pursuit of a fourth straight premiership but if the Sharks are to challenge for finals in 2016, there’s no better place to start than against the very best.

Hope was a premiership player at the Falcons before moving to St Kilda. With former AFL player Shaun Smith at the helm, Hope says the Sharks are building a talented and diverse team. Encouragingly, St Kilda will no longer be depending on her and her alone to kick goals.
“Jasmine Garner is just a gun, best kick in the league and some of the best hands I’ve seen,” says Hope of her fellow forward who kicked four against the Spurs. “Phoebe [McWilliams] is our centre half-forward but she can play down back. We’ve got some really good smalls – Jessie [Gardner] and others who come down from the midfield, so we’ve got depth there.”

Hope’s on-field brilliance is well catalogued: Victorian Under 19s captain, 2006 Australian International Rules Series’ representative and four time Western Bulldogs’ player are her standout achievements nestled amongst a swag of VWFL leading goal kicker awards. Before she was twenty, Hope had, by her own estimation, done “everything you could possibly do in women’s football”. The selection for the Western Bulldogs in the Women’s AFL Exhibition Matches and the upcoming Women’s AFL competition has given her a future goal to work towards beyond St Kilda. Her Bulldogs’ profile concisely lauds her “decisive leads and accurate long kicks to the target,” the two strongest areas of her game.

You’d be hard-pressed to find many State League players more determined to find areas of improvement than Moana Hope. Even after her best games, she will imagine herself jumping higher, running faster, kicking more goals, assisting in others. In between playing, her full-time career as Operations Manager for Utility Traffic Management and caring for her sister who has a disease called Moebius syndrome, Hope has trained two sessions a week for the past three months at athlete development centre Melbourne Acceleration to become a stronger, faster player.

“Every year that I’ve started my training there are extra things I’m working on to better my game,” says Hope. Hope understands she’s her own hardest marker and allows herself brief periods of self-congratulation – to constantly put yourself under pressure will eventually take the fun out of it. Nonetheless, she considers her Round 2 bag of 10 goals against Geelong a merely “good” performance. There’s probably always going to something about her game she can buff a bit.
But what happens when the day of the perfect performance comes? What are you going to do?

“Recover and go again.”

St Kilda play Darebin at Peanut Farm Reserve from 2pm on May 1.

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed this first time around, Callum.
    But knowing a bit more now, I had another look.

    Thanks for your writing, research & all round efforts.
    Well played.

Leave a Comment

*