Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves has plenty to be excited about this weekend.
A new player in the Dogs’ lineup hoping to influence their next game will be Aisling McCarthy. An Irish cross-coder from a Gaelic football background, her debut comes hot on the heels of countrywoman Yvonne Bonner at GWS; but it’s another Giants star from Ireland who Groves thinks plays a similar game to McCarthy.
“She plays pretty similarly to Cora [Staunton]; low to the ground, clean off both feet...there’s no pressure on her, she just has to get out there and enjoy her footy.”
While GWS has had the most success with their recruiting of Gaelic athletes, in Groves’ view, many other teams will be hoping to tap into the luck of the Irish in the future.
“A few of those Irish girls have shown they can really adapt to our game and we’re going to need them in the next couple of years.”
A cross-coder of different sorts in champion basketballer and grand final best on ground medallist Monique Conti was also on hand. Having rushed back to Adelaide at the last minute after her Melbourne Boomers’ WNBL season ended in the City of Churches only two days earlier, Conti played a small but effective role in the Round 1 win.
“I pulled up quite sore, it’s challenging not playing or fully training for a while, but it was good to get out there and run around.”
The Western Bulldogs have both lost premiership players to trades and picked up a new crop of draftees, but despite the changes, Conti only has praise for the team dynamic.
“It’s always different having a few new girls come in, but they’ve settled in really well...I think we’ve had a really good preseason, everyone’s really comfortable with each other on and off the field, which I think makes a big difference.”
Even though she is still only a teenager herself, Conti plays with the maturity of a veteran. Entering her second season of the AFLW & having played three in the WNBL, she feels well placed to help bridge between the established players and her debutant teammates.
“I’m settling into the league quite well; it’s good to have my first season under my belt, I do feel a bit like a veteran now.
“I think being in a professional league [for basketball] has helped me fit into this kind of league with the elite nature of it – being professional on and off the field. I think I’ve just got to keep improving my game and set up a pathway for those younger players as well.”
Finally, Groves shared some positive news about injured forward, Brooke Lochland.
“She was walking and kicking the footy last night. Because it’s a fibula, it’s not weight bearing. Best case scenario is potentially Round 5, more realistic is Round 6. It depends on the wound and where she sits with it, but she had a real kick along last night, out of the [moon] boot.
“She’s an exceptional athlete, but her mental strength to deal with it in a seven-game season – that’s promising.”