At the VFLW launch on Monday night Southern Saints' Coach Dale Robinson and Captain Frankie Hocking sat down for a Q&A on the season ahead. Read their thoughts below.
Coming off 2020, what does it feel like for each of you to be back playing and coaching footy again respectively?
Dale Robinson: Coming off 2020, we were lucky enough to have a really good core group that was coming together nicely. We managed a couple of practice games and then everything stopped, but the beauty of the last couple of months during lockdown is that we’ve kept that group together and then we’ve been able to add some additional people that have fitted the group really nicely.
Frankie Hocking: Coming off a season of not having any footy, the group has come back with loads of energy and are really excited to get going. We’ve been able to retain quite a few that were around for the 2020 season so we’ve built a nice foundation and then we’ve gained a few extra players for 2021 so it’s all looking positive and I think we’re all feeling enthusiastic to get back out on the oval.
How do you feel about the team’s form throughout the practice matches and going into the season?
DR: I’m pretty happy with our form. We’ve shown some really good patches of Saints footy which is what we want to concentrate on this year and there’s always plenty of things that come out of each game that we can learn from and keep working on and improving. I’m happy going into the season after what we have done in the last couple of weeks.
FH:I think the feeling among the group is that we’re starting to click at the right time. Obviously, there is still room for improvement which is a good way to feel, but I think the positivity is running through us all – we're ready to go.
And in what areas would you each like to see improvement throughout the season from a coaching and playing perspective?
DR:As a coach, I really want to see intensity around the defence that transitions into good offence. We tend to find some really good ball movement when we defend well and I think that sets us up right across the whole ground.
FH: From a leadership point of view, all the leaders want to inspire everybody else to be leaders on the field. We want to be able to communicate and not be afraid to guide each other on the field, so from a leadership perspective we want to continue to work on our communication and improve as leaders across the field.
Who are some of the players that have really impressed you and who should fans look out for?
DR:We’ve got some good stability through our players that have been around for a while. Tara Bohanna has come back with some real energy this year and she’ll lead really well across our forward line. There’s some great youth coming through as well – Lucy Burke showed some really good strength across the backline and her in conjunction with Millie Peck was exciting to watch. There are a few young kids through the middle who have a bit of x-factor about them as well as Deanna Jolliffe coming back from a couple of years away from injury, so it will be exciting to see what they can do with a full season.
FH: Across the board we are looking strong in all areas of the field. I’m looking forward to seeing how Aisling Curley progresses. Her footy knowledge has developed over the couple of years she’s been in Australia now and she’s got some burners on her, so I'm excited to see how many people she can run past.
How important is it to have fans back at the games for the 2021 season?
DR:It’s always great having a fan base around. Even seeing all the AFLW girls come down and support yesterday and provide some noise behind the bench was exciting. It’s great to have the families and friends of everybody around just to see the girls getting out and really enjoying what they love doing.
FH:For the players, to know that their friends and families are there with them is nice. They’ve obviously seen what we’ve gone through during lockdown and have been there with us and have probably been the ones pushing us during lockdown – now it’s time to reward them and show our gratitude with our performance on the field.
What are the benefits of the season running concurrently with the AFLW season?
DR:I like the synergy it provides. It gives the girls that are on the fringe of breaking into AFLW an opportunity to get some really good game time, but it also gives the girls at VFL level (who are aspiring to that level) an opportunity to learn from them and see what it takes. And for the girls that want to be the best state league players, it just gives that lift in intensity, so I think it’s a good avenue to have the programs working together.
FH:It’s really positive - it brings that elite mentality to the group. I think the girls from the AFLW that are playing with the VFLW are aspiring to get back into the team and show that they’re worth it and I think that helps everybody in the VFLW to lift and elevate to their level as well which is ultimately going to mean we have a better chance of winning and taking home the trophy at the end of it.
What can we expect from the Southern Saints for 2021?
DR: Finals is a word that always gets thrown around at the start. We’d love to get back to finals – we had a taste of that in 2019 and it’s something we always aspire to. For me, it’s most important to not only get the most out of the girls as players but also to see their growth as individuals on and off the field.
FH: Teamwork, commitment and loads of energy.
Written by Will Michael - Sandringham Football Club Media