CENTRAL District is becoming a team others are “scared” to come up against, according to Bulldogs midfielder Caitlen Teague. All seven of her side’s losses in 2021 came by 12 points or less, including four under a goal. With help from incoming coach Ben Hunt, the Bulldogs are quickly improving on what was lacking last year – conversion.
“We are a good side, we just have trouble converting that into goals,” Teague said. “Everything else is there, so hopefully this season we’ll be able to convert on the scoreboard a little bit more.
“We’ve got a new coach this year, he’s amazing, he’s picked out what we were lacking and that’s really what we’re focussing on – what we need to do to take that extra step so we can be a finals side.”
Picking said side looms as another test for Hunt and the Centrals coaching staff, as selection becomes tight among a squad of around 70 players. With a tenacious style of play and young blood filling the banks, there is plenty to be excited about ahead of season 2022.
“I think we can go all the way, 100 per cent,” Teague said. “We’ve got a great side, I know they’ve had a tough time trying to cut down (the squad) a little bit so we’ve got a young and fresh side, some really natural footballers. I’m really excited for the next season… we’re talking in the club saying we want to get to finals and make that top four, I really think we can go further than that.”
For Teague, the search for improvement extends further than the team sense. Out for two months with a broken finger during preseason, the 24-year-old was able to build on her strong running capacity but is looking to build her “rusty” skills back up to match the trajectory of the ever-improving SANFLW standard.
“My kicking’s pretty bad so I would like to improve on that,” she said. “I’ve gotten back into training but all my skills are a little bit rusty at the moment so I definitely want to get them back on track. I feel fit, I feel great because I’ve been running for two months and that’s all I’ve been doing but hopefully I can get my skills in check.
“It helps when the whole league improves… as (the competition) has gone on, I feel like we’re doing a lot better and that helps each person develop individually as well.”
There are many players in the Centrals lineup who embody the club’s style of play, and Teague is one of them. Her speed, tackling, and ability to hunt the ball on each line play into the Bulldogs’ trademark surge mentality, putting speed on the ball and ensuring the opposition never have an easy touch.
“People don’t really acknowledge second and third efforts too much but I think that’s what makes our games really exciting,” she said. “Not giving up after one person gets through or you miss a tackle, just keep going at it. We have standards for our club and one of them is relentlessness, I think that’s perfect because it’s really what you want in a player.”
While, unlike others, Teague says her primary goal is not to crack the AFLW grade, her quest to be the best she can is proving fruitful. A podium finish in last year’s club best and fairest proves that, and the next step is converting that performance into team success.