Cloke and Ranges eagerly await 2022 season

LIMITED to no contact training over the preseason, Eastern Ranges coach Travis Cloke cannot wait for Round 1. The NAB League Girls competition is just over two weeks away, and the Ranges have been training hard over the Summer, though Cloke admits it is hard to work out where they stand without certain match day elements.

“Obviously it’s fantastic just to back get out there kicking a ball around, the girls got their full season in, then another lockdown in Victoria which was a shame, but it’s (preseason) been fantastic,” Cloke said. “(We had) 12/13 sessions with the girls incorporating full elements of football. “Obviously no contact though which is a shame going into Round 1, but really good testing happened through preseason, and looking forward going into the 2022 season.

“We’re trying to do the right things under the guidelines here in Victoria and do what we can. “But we’re limited where we can, contact is part of our game so fingers crossed we can at least get one or two sessions in pre-Round 1 in mid-Jan.”

The first round of action is creeping up, though a high-end bottom-age talent has already earned a high honour, invited into the 2022 AFL Women’s Academy. Clever forward Alyssia Pisano was included in the 27-player squad, the only Victorian 2023 draft-eligible prospect in the squad.

Pisano won the NAB League Girls goalkicking in her debut season as a 15-year-old, and Cloke is excepting the talented small to just keep improving each year.

“It’s fantastic. It’s great on her behalf. We know in the football world she can play football. She’s very good, very crafty small forward, it’s fantastic she’s been picked,” Cloke said. “But she knows there’s a lot of work still for herself to take in her game. “That’s the options, she’s now in the nationals she’ll have before her draft age and time will tell if she adapts in the right way. “I believe she will. “A really good, strong-minded female who has aspirations of playing AFLW, which is great.”

Another bottom-age talent in Ava Campbell made the Vic Metro hub, and is a different prospect to Pisano, having played the eight games for the Ranges as an Under 16s talent last year, standing up in defence. She also managed a game with Vic Metro’s Under 17s side.

“Ava Campbell is young also, she’s the same age as Alyssia,” Cloke said. “More of a developing tall, can play key position forward and back, so looking forward to seeing her own development where she can go in 2022.”

Whilst Campbell could play at either end, Pisano is one Cloke hopes he can unleash in the midfield at some point.

“I know she’s a crafty forward, but for her to develop her game, she’s going to have to learn midfield craft, Cloke said. “We’ll give her the option, if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t we can always slot her into a forward pocket for sure.”

The sole top-age Ranges player in the Vic Metro hub is reigning best and fairest winner, Mia Busch. The talented defender is regarded as an incredibly hard worker on and off the field, and Cloke could not be happier to see her rewarded.

“Mia is a terrific young girl, self-driven, fantastic athletic,” Cloke said. “Probably haven’t seen many young girls work as hard as her on the track. “Great to see her get the reward. “As a bottom-age 17-year-old won our best and fairest which is great for consistency. “But got the reward with the 19s Metro group. “From reports she dominated the training at the camp, and so far had a really good solid preseason.”

When asked which others could be ones to watch, Cloke joked “I’ve got around 49 other girls”. Then the Ranges coach said plenty had put their hands up, but it wanted to see them in matchday action.

“There’s a few we look at even our younger girls, we’ve brought in a few girls at 15/16 who are extremely talented with ball-in-hand,” he said. “We’ll obviously have to see what they’re like in-match, so I’m excited to see how the girls track. “Maybe in the first half of the year, then we’ll get a better look because as I said we haven’t done a lot of contact, so to see that gamestyle element come into it is going to be really important.

“The girls Metro is only about 20 girls so there is going to be more introduced. I’m just looking forward to collectively across the NAB region the girls that are going to put their hand up.”

Cloke said that even at the Ranges they “missed a lot of talent” last year, and have brought in some girls who he thinks will push the regular starters from 2021. He admitted whilst they would not be “walk-up starters”, they would be “pretty close” which would help with the depth and competition for spots.

Like every NAB League Girls club, the Ranges will always remain focused on development. Cloke said whilst there was always going to be a split of players who got drafted and who missed out, the club wanted to assist in helping every player get as far as they possibly could.

“You’ve got to think collectively, then you break it down individually into your draftable prospects that are in your 18s/19s age bracket,” Cloke said. “The reality is not everyone is draftable, and we understand that, but the girls still go through have aspirations to play at the highest level they can, and we need to fulfil that. “As a coach I’ll do my best I can to cover as much bases as I can.”

In the future, Cloke hopes the NAB League Girls programs receiving the same recognition as the boys. He said he had already noticed the increase in professionalism amongst the playing group over his time at the club, and he looked forward to the future.

“We talk about wanting to say we want it to be the same as the boys, and it’s only a matter of time before we get it on par with the boys program and it’s the development of the athletes like here that are going to drive the standards of professionalism, and I guess as someone involved and I look forward to seeing where it goes in the coming years,” Cloke said.

“I can already see some of the girls changing their mentality in the past 12 months, their training habits, their attention to detail away from our club which is great. “I’m not surprised that I’ve seen some of the girls come back with a fantastic attitude, which puts us in a great position and we’re just looking forward to having a game of footy.”

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