Glenelg “still hunting” in search of second flag

GLENELG Women’s premiership coach Jason Fairall has no intention of seeing his team being resigned to a one-time premiership side. Though breaking through for the Bays’ maiden premiership was something to celebrate and cherish in the wake of the 2021 season, once the preparations began for 2022, it was full steam ahead.

“The fact of the matter is, that history is littered with teams who spike up and win one and fall away,” Fairall said. “It’s taken us a long time to get our program and our list in the shape that it’s in now. “We don’t want to throw that away.

“Once preseason started we actually stopped referring back to 2021 so we don’t even talk about that now. “All our focus is on 2022 and getting better and making sure that we remain a contender for as long as we possibly can. “We don’t want to fall away. Our leadership group has been instrumental in that.”

Fairall said since the flag, the Bays’ premiership players have not rested on their laurels. With the leadership group lifting the bar, he said all the players had returned in better condition than 12 months earlier. With two less players on the field – the SANFL Women’s competition is changing to 16-a-field sides – competition for spots will be more fierce than ever before.

“Competition is going to be strong, it’s not just a conclusion that we’re going to be a contender again, so we need to stay hungry,” Fairall said. “We don’t refer ourselves as the hunted, we are still hunting.”


Though the focus is on 2022, Fairall still fondly looks back on the season that was last year, but said it had been a long time coming, From when he was appointed caretaker and eventual senior coach, Fairall oversaw “40-odd” new faces coming into the Bays program from 2019-20, and another “six to eight” last season. It meant just two players from the first season, and three from the second were a part of the program in 2021.

The lessons learnt over that time was that the second and third year players were often making the greatest strides. Fairall described it as “getting a bit of traction and understanding what it took to be at the level”. as well as what it was like to be a Glenelg player and the roles expected of them at the club. Admittedly, Fairall said up until the second half of last season, it had certainly been tough.

“Whilst it was a bit frustrating that journey before last season, even towards the middle of last season was still a bit frustrating,” he said. “After Round 6 we were two wins, three losses and one draw, it really felt like we were going nowhere, but once we got it all together we felt like we were getting a bit of momentum and as it turned out we would maintain that until the end of the year and through to the last game. “It was a good finish to the season anyway.”


Fairall was able to oversee the rapid improvement of young gun Brooke Tonon into an AFL Women’s player, as well as blood underage talents Sarah Goodwin and Piper Window and turn them into SANFL Women’s premiership players.

“I think in my time at Glenelg we haven’t had a strong zone for female footballers coming through,” Fairall said. “To have some talented players like those two (Goodwin and Window) plus a few more coming through this season has been really, really nice. “It allows us to bridge the gap that the benefit some of the other clubs have with their strong junior numbers coming through.

“We are better positioned this year rather than last year, and what it does is give us confidence that our development is pretty good in those players coming into our program, but we’re also pretty good at teaching roles, and teaching how to understand to play at this level. “The character of the players too is very strong, they’re pretty driven as well.”


Fairall said the entire list had improved over the off-season and he was looking forward to what ex-Panther Madison Bennett could produce. Alongside Bennett, ex-netballers Laura Chigwidden and Alice Bradley had also made good strides over the preseason, as had Jess Searle, whilst leaders Ellie Kellock and Jessica Bates were again setting the pace.

“The growth has really come across the board. I feel pretty bad singling those players out, but I really do feel like there has been improvement out of every single player this offseason,” Fairall said.

“Madi Bennett has had a very good preseason and we certainly see her as one who will be a good player for us hopefully for many years to come. “She’s taken a little while to understand our system and our program, and we’ve certainly put a fair bit of time into her so she can kick more and more confidently. “But she’s one that’s had an outstanding preseason that has also been recognised by her peers which is pleasing.


In 2022, the SANFL Women’s has opted to introduce a Development League, allowing all those players who miss out on League selection to be able to play on the same day in an effective Reserves competition. Previously, players had to work their way back into senior selection contention at local footy, and even then, for a large portion of the season, had only training form to go off. When asked if the inclusion of the Development League would help him and the staff at the selection table, Fairall said there was “no question about it”.

“I think the biggest issue for the firsts since the eight rounds of the season in year’s gone by there hasn’t been local footy played at that point in time,” Fairall said. “So the players who aren’t selected don’t get a chance to press for their selection outside of training and injuries to players who are playing so there’s no question this actually makes selection a lot easier because you know, that hopefully players you are bringing in have a little bit of form in the Reserves competition. “Some of them are learning new roles, so it gives them an opportunity to cut their teeth before they do get the opportunity to get selected in the seniors.”


Looking towards the 2022 season, the tradition for the reigning premiers is to unfurl their premiership flag in front of home fans. The problem for Glenelg? With the season brought forward a few weeks, ACH Group Stadium is unavailable due to Summer sport commitments. It means that the first seven rounds which have been released sees the Bays play on the road. Fairall is hoping the remaining weeks yet to be determined favour the reigning premiers with some home matches.

“We haven’t seen the backend of the fixture, and we’re really hoping the SANFL will be kind to us and look after us a little bit on the backend. “I assume it will be that first home game, but the challenge with that is, it’s probably halfway through the season.”

Though he is keen to unfurl the flag and enjoy the moment with supporters, Fairall is also keen to put 100 per cent focus into the 2022 season, with the first home game set to be sometime in the run home to finals.

“It happened last year, that’s the reality of it. “We have moved on, we’re not really talking about that. We’ll worry that when we’re old and tired. “For now we want to stay hungry and get the best out of ourselves.”


When the 2022 SANFL Women’s fixture was released, Glenelg was drawn against Norwood in a rematch of that first final last season. The Bays celebrated the victory to book a spot in the 2021 Grand Final, but as Fairall knew at that time then, and knows now, the Redlegs are a formidable opponent.

“It’s exciting. They were in the minor round head and shoulders above everyone else. I suspect from what I’ve seen and I guess from what I’ve heard they’ve improved again this year, so they’ll be another good challenge for us,” Fairall said. “Particularly on their home ground, that will be an advantage, particularly for those clubs who have access to their home ground early in the season.” But we give ourselves a chance, we’ve got a fairly experienced group now and it should be an interesting battle, that’s for sure.”

Glenelg and Norwood clash on Friday, February 4 at 8pm. That means it is just eight days away from the opening bounce of the 2022 SANFL Women’s season.

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