Women’s Footy – VFL: Spurred On By Belief

On paper, the VU Western Spurs’ upset victory over Diamond Creek in Round 14 was just that. An upset. The Creekers had a stack of injuries, the Spurs played better on the day. These things happen. Some might say it was a fluke.

Try telling that to the Spurs. For a playing group that has soldiered through years of defeats, held themselves together after a player exodus and teetered on the edge of collapse, that victory was irrefutable proof that they are at last moving in the right direction. According to 19-year old forward Alex Quigley, who kicked five goals to spearhead the win, it marks the day from which the Spurs’ rivals better sit up and take them seriously.

“We knew this would be the moment that defined the Spurs and people would start thinking we’re not just ‘that bottom team’ anymore, we’re the real thing.”

Quigley first became a Spur when they were still known as St Albans, only becoming VU Western in the 2016 off-season. They have spent the last three seasons recovering from a mass departure of players at the end of 2012. After finishing second with ten wins in 2012 they scrounged just five across the next three seasons.

Quigley recalls the darkest days when her team would run onto the field without even hoping to win. However, nothing could tarnish the club’s “fire in the belly”, as well as the inspiring example set by captain Bree White and female football legend, Melbourne Demons’ Female Football Operations Manager and Spurs’ coach Debbie Lee.

“Whenever I get my head down, Whitey’s the one who comes up to me and says, ‘Keep going, keep pushing through,’” says Quigley. “And obviously Debbie. She’s almost like a mother figure, like a friend or mentor to us.”

“With a young player looking for work placement, she’ll say, ‘Come with me.’ If you injure yourself, she’ll say, ‘Come to Melbourne.’”

Quigley has seen the worst of times in her career as a Spur, carrying a weight on her shoulders far beyond her years. Memories of playing against the best while she was still finding her feet are in no way distant; indeed, Quigley attributes her confidence and form to that dog-eat-dog beginning.

“What I took out of it was that I got to play on the best week in week out and I had a spot in the team,” she says. “That’s what got me where I am this year.”

With the introduction of four Division 1 sides into the inaugural VFL Women’s competition, the Spurs had a chance of lifting themselves off the bottom of the ladder. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as wanting it. For the first time in a long time, they had to believe they could win a game.

“Our motto was ‘Be the difference’,” says Quigley. “So what you can do in each game to be the difference. Everyone brings their strengths to each game and you work on your weaknesses at training.”

In between early victories over expansion sides Geelong and Knox, the Spurs made massive leaps forward against their 2015 opponents. With the implementation of their game plan becoming increasingly natural, the average losing margin dropped nearly ten goals from their previous meetings.

Following her side’s five-goal loss to St Kilda, a contest they had been in until the early stages of the final term, Lee commented that her side’s next challenge was to not become hooked on the opiate of brave defeats. It’s an approach that Quigley says the playing group has taken on board with a vengeance.

“We don’t want to just narrowly lose, we want to beat all the top teams and that vision came true when we beat Diamond Creek.”

The Spurs jumped the Creekers from the start and never looked back. A four-goal-to-zip first quarter was followed up by a five-goal-to-two third quarter to blow the margin out to 37 points at the last change. The battle had been won, the deed done, but Quigley says the Spurs never took one step off the game plan.

“Even in those last five minutes, everyone was still going as hard as they could,” says Quigley. “We knew we could get there. If we do all of our structures, we’re good enough to beat every team in the competition.”

It’s been a long way back for the Spurs and they have a long way to go yet. However, the better they become, the bigger their victory over Diamond Creek will become in the pages of history.


About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

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