Robinson re-signs as Southern Saints Senior Coach for 2022 VFLW season
Fresh off a semi-final appearance, Dale Robinson is excited to continue her role as senior coach of the Southern Saints as they look to build on their excellent 2021 season in 2022.
Photo by Tommy Colaci
Robinson led from the front throughout her first year as coach, establishing strong relationships with key personnel and a culture where players thrive both on-field and off-field.
Prior to joining the Southern Saints as an assistant coach in 2018, Robinson had an illustrious playing career with the VU Western Spurs in the now-defunct VFLW competition, playing over 100 games and winning 2 premierships.
She transitioned into the Southern Saints senior coaching role in 2021 after spending three years learning her craft as an assistant, where she worked alongside experienced coaches Peta Searle and Paddy Hill.
Heading into next year, she’s looking forward to the prospect of working with the Southern Saints youthful playing list.
“I’m very excited, I think we have a great opportunity to keep working on the things that were put in place this year,” she said.
“I think we’ll see some young kids really start to come through, another year under their belt and another pre-season honing their craft is going to be great for their footy.”
Robinson also nominated a few players she thinks will impress in 2022.
“Madi Capsalis, Deanna Joliffe, Mel Bertuna and Lucy Burke and some of the Dragons (Sandringham Dragons) girls who play in the latter half of the year will get more experience at VFL level in their final year of NAB league,” she said.
With the help of the Sandringham Dragons NAB League development program and a thriving partnership with the Sandringham Football Club, the Southern Saints have no shortage of support as they continue their quest for the ultimate VFLW prize.
“The way we’ve integrated with Sandy has been phenomenal. We’ve had great support from Marcus (Marcus Ashcroft, CEO) and Josh (Josh Vella) from an operational perspective and a lot of buy-in from the board,” Robinson said.
Robinson and Batchelor at the Saints' Best and Fairest
She praised Jake Batchelor, Sandringham VFL Senior Coach, for helping the club build a strong culture across the wider football program.
“Jake’s got the same energy and enthusiasm as I do and really wants to build the club. It’s not about the female and male sides themselves, it’s about one club and having an inclusive place for all,” she said.
Inclusivity is a big part of Robinson’s coaching ethos and contributes to the team-first mentality at the Saints.
“Whether you’re a player that’s at the top of the list and getting games every week or fighting to play one game for the season, it’s important to focus on the entire group and not just the girls that are playing. That brings everyone into the culture and gives them the chance to keep growing as a group,” she said.
“We’ve had a good culture since we started in 2018 and I think we took it to another level this year by making sure that communication is key across the entire group.”
The 2021 VFLW season delivered several challenges, as Melbourne’s COVID lockdown in May-June forced the postponement of the competition for four weeks.
However, Robinson ensured the group stayed in touch and supported each other through difficult times.
“We made very good use of video conferencing platforms to keep that visual connection there,” she said.
“It’s that safe space where they can reach out and ask for help. A big part of how we’ve built that culture is knowing there’s a space for anyone on a day where they might be struggling.”
As a first-year senior coach, Robinson embraced the learning curve as the season unfolded.
“I learned a lot about how to best manage communication across all areas of the club and to bring everyone on the journey,” she said.
“From a football perspective, my confidence has grown in being able to deliver my message weekly, but also from an engagement perspective for the girls to get up and want to play.”
Post-lockdown, the Southern Saints turned around an inconsistent season to record four consecutive victories, including dominant wins over North Melbourne in round 14 and the highly fancied Port Melbourne in an Elimination Final.
While the Saints season ended prematurely after a nail-biting semi-final loss to Geelong, there was much to gain from this year and the resilience of the group will hold them in good stead in 2022.
Written by Jack Bennett - Sandringham Football Club Media