Women’s Footy – VFL: Seaford Start to Believe

In Round 6, Seaford became the first 2015 Division 1 side to defeat a 2015 Premier Division side. The Tigerettes held off Diamond Creek by 14 points to claim a gritty and momentous victory. It’s the accumulation of a well-implemented game plan, a confident playing group and a collective mental strength but according to midfielder Kellie Saunders and coach Brett Alexander, it’s just the first step.

Seaford finished third in Division 1 last season and subsequently were promoted into the inaugural VFL Women’s competition. Alexander was appointed as senior coach in late December and set about instilling in his team not with the immediate goal of victory but rather the approach that if they could cohesively develop their game, victories would eventually take care of themselves.

“Each week I take 25 minutes worth of footage I want to go through,” says Alexander. “I then try to incorporate the training drill for that week around the vision I’ve shown them. That means they have to be able to take that on board, apply it on the training track and then hopefully in the following weekend’s game.”

Kellie Saunders, who joined Seaford in 2015, says Alexander’s introduction of post-match video analysis is a sign of his intent to coach his players as professional footballers rather than a suburban side.

“Brett takes things as seriously as elite level footballers, rather than community footballers,” says Saunders. “One of his strengths was he asked us what we wanted. He got us individually to outline to him what we want to work on as individuals, what do we want to work on as a team.”

Few were surprised at Seaford’s initial offerings against former Premier Division sides: Melbourne University trounced them by 76 points in Round 1 and reigning triple-premiers Darebin romped home to the tune of 94 points in Round 3.

Such heavy losses in such quick succession early in the season are hard for any team to take. The VFL community must have been harbouring uneasy thoughts about whether Seaford could hold themselves together in the face of such an onslaught. It would have been all too easy for the team to become 22 self-pitying individuals.

 “One of the things that keeps coming back to me is that one or two players doesn’t make a difference,” says Saunders. “We have to back each other so we have the confidence to do that.”

A turning point came in Seaford’s Round 5 clash against the Eastern Devils, when the Tigerettes met a renowned tough side head-on rather than play it safe. Although the Devils kicked away in the last quarter, Alexander said after the match that the week-to-week improvement of his side meant they were “coming together really well”. Fast-forward one week…

Seaford could not have found a more emboldening victory than their win against the Creekers, in which they fell behind early, fought back, wrested the lead and held off their fast-finishing opponents in the desperate final minutes. Diamond Creek kicked the first five goals, leading all and sundry to expect them to consign the Tigerettes to a third heavy loss.

“A lot of mental switching-on,” says Saunders of the main factor that turned the match. “Every player had to bring it, no one player can make enough difference.”

Seaford put together two dominant quarters of football to take a 10-point lead into three quarter time.
This put them in an unexpected, testing situation, having gone in as underdogs they now had the odds heavily in their favour. With that came pressure. And the pressure really built when Diamond Creek kicked the first two of the last quarter to threaten to render Seaford’s best efforts useless. Full-forward Emma Hall kicked her third goal to give the Tigerettes some breathing space before midfielder Danielle Lawrence sealed the victory with three minutes to go.

Saunders puts her side’s final quarter response to their ongoing goal of individual and team improvement.

“When we see our strengths, we focus on reproducing that and building on that. Winning is a by-product of building as a team, I don’t think it’s even week-to-week. The win was amazing, but we’re all about the bigger picture. It’s all about the next step and we can’t afford to plateau. It’s all about growth and it’s all about learning, we’re not going to stop that.”

Seaford ruckman Kate Gillespie-Jones and forward Jess Hosking will play for Melbourne in their clash against Brisbane at the MCG on Sunday while defender-midfielder Kim Webb has been named in the Western Bulldogs’ side to take on Western Australia on June 5 at Etihad Stadium.

About Callum O'Connor

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