Southern Saints go down, but much to be proud of in season 2021
Photos by Tony Vella
Dale Robinson’s Southern Saints might have lost a nail-biting clash to end their premiership dreams on Saturday afternoon, but inside the four walls was nothing but gratefulness for what they’ve built this year.
Despite finals hopes looking shaky for the majority of the season, the girls rallied and showed strong resilience for a young group to win their last two home and away games.
That was followed up with a strong win over Port Melbourne in the first week of finals, to the tune of 27 points.
However, the underdog tale was not to be, as the Saints fell just short in a see-sawing final quarter against the Cats.
But according to Robinson, the platform of an “inclusive and safe environment” that has been set this year will drive this group onto bigger and better things in the seasons to come.
“The biggest takeaways for me have been around setting a platform for the girls to feel a part of a really inclusive and safe environment,” she said.
“Ultimately, by investing in players as people you get the most out of them and to watch all of them grow across the season has been the thing I’m most grateful for.”
As mentioned, the resilience of the young squad has been admirable.
With a very different list to the one last seen in 2019 as the team transitioned into the AFLW, the squad lost three of their first four matches.
With constant pressure on performance and interruptions to the season, it would have been easy for the team to take a backward step and look towards next year.
But that’s just not how this group operates — and with backs against the wall with two wins from two games to play finals — the spark was never dead.
“The resilience of the group is incredible, we set the platform for that very early on,” Robinson said.
“There’s a lot of outside influence to the group, knowing that across the year we would have AFLW players coming and going, and you have injuries and COVID and all of those things."
“We set that platform at the start because you don’t want things like that to be a surprise, and the way the girls have done that and embraced it, embraced all the changes across the year without falter has been incredible.”
Robinson said another key takeaway that has thrilled those at the club is the development of the players, both personally and professionally.
As follows the trend for professional sport in recent years, the importance of players becoming better off field is becoming clearer in the benefits for culture and performance on field.
Therefore, it’s no surprise it’s one of the clubs’ greatest achievements this year.
“It’s not only the growth you see in them as players, it’s the growth you see in them as individuals,” Robinson said.
“It’s the confidence to go about the things that they do both on and off the field, you can have those conversations where things might not be going great off the field, and we’ve created an environment to be open enough to have those conversations with (the playing group) and support them through that.
“I think it leaves us in a great position that we can continue to build from.”
It wasn’t to be for the Southern Saints this year, but the belief and strength of the group will certainly hold them in fantastic stead going forward.
Written by Seb Mottram - Sandringham Football Club Media