Burton excited by Cannons’ “booming” talent

THOUGH he admits the same could be said for every NAB League Girls region, Calder Cannons Talent Operations Lead Matthew Burton continues to be blown away by the blossoming talent in the northern metropolitan region. The Cannons head into the 2022 season with greater depth than ever before, and whilst they only had one player earn a spot in the Vic Metro hub, Burton was excited to showcase the club’s evenness.

“The big thing that’s changed from this year to next year is we’ve got really good depth, and we’ve got competition for spots,” Burton said. “We’re really happy with the list we’ve got and they’re all doing a really good job.

The increased depth made it near-impossible to make cuts to the extended list, with almost a complete side increase on the 2021 numbers. Burton said the competition for spots increased the quality of training and intensity “100 per cent”.

“We only had 32 listed girls last year. This year we’ve got just over 50,” he said. “We’ve got a big squad, we’re going to have some futures games early in the piece for our younger girls. But the talent in the girls space is just booming.

“I feel like every region will be saying that as well, but in particularly in our region, the talent is just immense, especially in our 17-year-olds, our 16-year-olds, we’ve even got four 14-year-olds who will be training with us last year. “It’s remarkable, the depth of the talent is really increasing our standards which is what we want.”

The sole representative in the Vic Metro hub is talented utility Abbey McDonald. Burton said she had been working really hard over the off-season, but was looking forward to playing for points in a few weeks time.

“Abbey’s really talented, she plays across all three lines, she’s competitive, she’s got great skills,” he said. “She went really well today (preseason testing) and we’re looking forward to seeing how she progresses throughout the year.”

McDonald is not the only player Burton said to keep an eye out on, with a number of draft-eligible talents catching the eye over the preseason. One of those includes an Under 17s Vic Metro rep whose omission from the Metro hub will only fuel her.

“In terms of draft-eligible girls, Reese Sutton is another one who I thought was pretty unlucky not to make Vic Metro hub,” Burton said. “But you can’t pick everyone and we understand that and she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder now. “She’s done a power of work now, and she was part of the 17s Metro last year.

“We’ve got a couple of over-age girls who have come back in sparkling condition, so Olivia Manfre who’s been training with Essendon throughout, she’s been a part of their program the last 18 months. She’s in really, really good condition. One of the girls, Trilby Sheppard has probably been one of the best performed in the preseason, she played six or seven games with us (in 2021) and she’s come back in really good condition, so she’s going really, really well.”

Though like with any competitive people winning is something to celebrate, Burton said the Cannons focus remained on development with victories being a “bi-product” of developmental success.

“Development first and foremost, really, really important,” he said. “I think winning is a bit of a bi-product if you’re doing all the right things development wise. “Winning isn’t everything in our competition, but we all work in an industry where we’re all competitive, and our girls are pretty competitive as well.

“As I said, winning is a bit of a bi-product and we want to win anyway. “But the development factor of making sure that our girls are learning, the educational, development piece is so important to us, not only as players but as people as well.”

With a shorter turnaround from preseason to the season start on January 22, Burton praised his high performance staff who were doing a “remarkable” job in getting the players prepared for the 2022 season.

“You’ve got to be a little bit thrifty with the way we train and preparing the girls,” Burton said. “But we’ve got an outstanding group of high performance staff who are doing a really, really good job making sure the girls are conditioned and ready to go.”

As for the season itself, everything is about to ramp up with games just over two weeks away. Though it has come around quickly, Burton said the playing group was ready to go and had adapted really well.

“It will pretty frantic couple of weeks prior, but we’ll try and do as much as we can in those two weeks,” he said. “It’s really important, and we’ve expressed to the girls that the next three weeks is a really, really important for them that they make sure they keep their conditioning up and that they’re prepared for when they play games.”

The Calder Cannons take on Eastern Ranges in Round 1 of the NAB League Girls season at Kilsyth with both the Futures and Under 18s matches taking place in a double-header.

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