Team Evans traveled up to Lionel Watts Oval to meet the Forest Lions on Sunday. To the older players and their parents, this brought back memories of the previous encounter as the last game of the season last year. That had been a great team win, and it was hoped that even with the change in personnel, Team Evans could replicate that feat. And reportedly the dumplings from Forest’s canteen were outstanding!
Our game focus was tackling, we’d had a good session at training going through the techniques and drilled it thoroughly. We’d also drilled and discussed kickouts, but didn’t get an opportunity to put that skill into practice! Captain today was Isobel (Izzy), and she gave a very rushed team address as the umpires were clamouring for the players to take the field. The Lions had a squad of thirteen, we had ten, and so we fielded eleven each, this including Forest’s loan player. With an icy wind blowing out of the west, the play was going to be mostly on the spectator’s side of the field. The Lion’s coach had also requested that we rotate the ruck duties throughout the game to ensure the rucks were matched in size and every girl got an opportunity to ruck. This was happily agreed to.
Play started off well, our forwards were working very nicely together, sharing the ball around, with both Coco and Eva (her first goal!) scoring, and even Lila, our loan player from Forest scored. With our strong mid-field moving forward in the zone rotation of the second quarter, the goals continued with Isla kicking three (yes three!) and Izzy a single goal.
The play to this point had been a heavy stoppage game, it seems that The Cats girls were certainly demonstrating their dominance in tackling, and while Forest were being beaten, they were by no means finished. When the ball did pop out the contest, movement between zones was pretty good, the large ground size not fazing any of them. Team Evans are very lucky to have good strong kickers in each zone, and it was not unusual to see the ball move directly from backs to midfielder to forwards cleanly.
At half time, and with the Cats seven goals up, the coaches met to discuss equalisation. The Lions played the remainder of the game with an additional player, and it was immediately noticeable. The third quarter was goalless, and the 3/4 time break had Manager Sam rousing the girls for a final quarter effort. The team responded, with players (mostly) returning to their preferred zones, it was goals to Coco and Bella, and one to the Lions.
Coach Mic’s voice had given out sometime in the 3rd quarter of the Swans-Collingwood match the previous day, and was glad that he didn’t have to spend the match barking out instructions to the team, as his voice sounded like a retired drill sergeant’s. As mentioned in previous reports, the girls are just getting things done, moving where they need to be, directing each other at stoppages, and generally showing good composure with the ball. While being very aware of not wanting to introduce more advanced concepts during a game, the quarter time coach’s advice was little more than, “you’re going great, keep it up!”
There are things we can improve on though. One is our technique when kicking from a free kick or a set shot at goal. We need to get well back off that mark, get the kick away off more than a single step, and kick through the ball! And we will also spend more time drilling using our speed to get out of congestion. There was plenty of opportunity to break free from a stoppage, but rather than moving around the play, we were trying to kick or run through the congestion. Of course, we can also improve our picking up of players, it would be pleasing to look around and see match-ups everywhere.
One standout today was Bella. While previously being a little bit timid around the ball, this week she hooked in and dug the ball out of numerous contests, and she has a surprising turn of speed once clear. Her goal sense is improving, and she was unlucky to only score on goal for the morning. She was caught a number of times for incorrect disposal, and we know she will practice her hand-balling at home with her brother, but it only shows the number of times she took the game on.
It had been reported to me prior to the game that Eva was not 100%, and pre-game, she looked a bit wan, drilling with a hoodie on. But once on the field she didn’t show a sign of illness and battled on the whole game without a single complaint. She was awarded the Tayla Harris Courage Award. In addition, Eva’s efforts at the ball, tackling two or three times in a row, getting into every contest that was near her, and following up with chase, were outstanding. If there was a Lewis Jetta Award for kicking the largest number of behinds before kicking her first goal, it would go to Eva, as she finally broke through and kicked her first goal this week, and this is definitely worth celebrating. Her game sense is improving steadily, and she wins the hit out every time she rucks. Eva was deservedly awarded the Darcy Vescio Best Play award.
I think every parent (and coach) thinks their daughter is best on ground every week, and this week, (taking nothing away from Eva) I believe every one of us is correct! It was a complete team effort, and that was reflected in the strong result. The team song, led by Izzy, was sung with great gusto!
One third of the way through the season now, hasn’t it flown? Next Sunday is an early trip out to Manly to meet the Bombers. The word on the street is that The Cats U12 Team Henry will also be out there in the following match, hopefully it can be a blue-and-white wash of results!
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