AFTER an impressive 2021 NAB League Girls season on all fronts, the Geelong Falcons Girls are raring to go into 2022. Five players landed on AFL Women’s lists over the off-season, which followed on from the side reaching the grand final. Though they fell short on the day, they had a memorable year, which also culminated in coach Paul Corrigan winning NAB League Girls Coach of the Year.
“I think we just walked in with no expectations on the girls and think they just gelled magnificently together and all through the year they just kept building as a group and I had a great group of staff behind me with coaches and off-field support as well,” Corrigan said. “The Coach of the Year accolade is nice, it’s not why you do it. “I think it’s more about Geelong Falcons as a team.”
Corrigan said by the players being drafted, it gave the new group plenty of inspiration and motivation for the future. Annie Lee (Carlton), Gabbi Featherston (Geelong), Tess Craven (North Melbourne) and Ingrid Houtsma (Richmond) all found homes on draft night, before Poppy Schaap joined Lee at the Blues as a replacement player last month.
“That was five girls who got an opportunity, and then obviously with the expansion clubs coming into the AFLW, we’re hoping to see a few more girls get that opportunity next year,” Corrigan said. “We feel that we’ve got a pretty good demographic with our list at the moment. “From 15-year-olds all the way through to 18-year-olds.”
Whilst there are no certainties in the current sporting landscape, Corrigan said he hoped that 2022 would bring about more consistency, and an interruption-free season.
“We’ve been back since November so I think the girls have now had five to six weeks preparation,” he said. “We’ve been able to put some match sim in there in the last two weeks as well, so really good. “Hopefully we get some fresh air this year and we’re not in and out of lockdowns like obviously this year. “The girls have been really excited and training has been really good.”
With five players reaching the top level and plenty more moving on to other leagues, the Falcons will see how all the fresh faces fit within the side before determining what the team may look like on gameday.
“Obviously with the Futures first up, we’ll get a good look at the younger girls in that program, and we’ll get an idea of the team balance and what we want to do which will be similar to last year,” Corrigan said. “Girls will get an opportunity all through the year, and the ones who perform really well will hold their spot.”
When asked if the overall list was different to its 2021 predecessor, Corrigan said it had more of an even spread, and was noticeably different in one particular area.
“Yeah probably a bit different to last year, we’ve probably got a bit more athletic profile as far as our talls go,” he said. “That covers the ground really well and we’ve got a lot of natural top footballers at ground level, that cover the ground in forward, mid and back. “We feel we’ve got a better spread from a talent point of view this year which will be great, so hopefully they gel well and perform well throughout the year.”
Three players earned their place in the Vic Country hub for 2022, with versatile utility Mia Van Dyke, tackling machine Ashleigh Van Loon and bottom-age talent Chloe Adams all being named in the hub. Corrigan said other plaeyrs who were new to the program included Aimee Wookey and Kiara Woods who had stood out on the training track.
“You always look at your Vic Country girls who have been selected and you always know they’ll come back a similar standard to the way they have,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of talent that has come in that hasn’t been involved in the talent pathway program that has just eaten the program up and used all the resources as well.”
As for his focus now, Corrigan said he just “can’t wait for the games to start”.
In Round 1, Geelong Falcons host Dandenong Stingrays at Deakin University on Sunday, January 23 from 1pm.