Bulldogs on the Hunt for SANFLW success

COMING off the back of its most impressive South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season yet, Central District is a club on a mission. With a new coach at the helm in Ben Hunt, the Bulldogs are hoping to build on their success last year – which saw them get within a couple of goals in every game they played – and stake their claims to rise up the ladder. Hunt said he was looking to adopt that style, but also tighten up the gameplan defensively.

“I like playing an attacking style brand of footy, but again we need to be able to defend really well too,” Hunt said. “I think we were the fourth worst team for points against last year, so that’s something we’ll be working on. But definitely an attacking style, and hopefully kick some big scores. “But in saying that too, maybe I’m a little bit old school, as long as we win at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter too much.”


Hunt has enjoyed his preseason with the club thus far, and said whilst there were a number of challenges – where he admitted to occasionally “getting grumpy” – he praised his playing group for the way the players had taken to his instructions.

“The reason why I came into Centrals is invested in what they have in women’s footy which I’ve throughly enjoyed and the support I’ve had has been great,” Hunt said. “They’re a great bunch of girls. I had interviews with all of them all last year’s players before we started preseason and were wrapt with every single player of them.

“Being new to the system I suppose knowing that you’re going to have a certain amount of players every night for training makes it easier to plan training and structure training which has been fantastic.”

Hunt said it was a challenge getting to know “60-odd new players and all their personalities” but he enjoyed implementing a new game plan. In their trial game against North Adelaide last weekend, Hunt said he saw promising signs in the second half after a “pretty ordinary” first half.

“Second half I think we matched it with them, we played a different style of gameplan and from a coaching point of view it was good that the girls could respond and do what I asked of them,” he said.


Losing star forward Katelyn Rosenzweig to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was a huge loss for the Bulldogs, and Hunt concedes it would “affect our scoring ability to some degree” but his side was ready to adjust if needed. Rosenzweig has taken the opportunity to step up as the forwards coach whilst undergoing rehab for her knee.

“It was the first time I sat with her on the coaches box on the weekend (trial game),” Hunt said. “She got caught ball watching a few times, so she’s got a little bit to learn, but it’s good that she’s involved. “She was on the Crows list … she’s got a good footy brain, so to have her around the group is fantastic. “It keeps her involved and motivated and doing all the rehab and get herself right.”


Whilst Rosenzweig might be ruled out for the 2022 SANFL Women’s season, there have been plenty of strong performers who have impressed Hunt over the Summer. It is no surprise to anyone that the Bulldogs’ leader has quite literally lead by example all preseason.

“Well I’m sure you know Shelby Smith our captain, she has just impressed me from day one. From the moment I met her, she’s a super captain of the club on and off the field,” Hunt said. “Isabelle Starmer our ruck has been good, one of our younger players Laitiah Huynh she’s really impressed me a lot this preseason, just actually her knowledge of the game. “When I ask the group questions, she’s always the first to respond.”

Alongside some experienced Bulldogs are a handful of young pups who have caught Hunt’s eye over the off-season. Hunt specifically mentioned Georgia McKee, Charlotte Riggs and Dakota Williams as players to keep an eye on throughout the year.

“We’re having a Development League this year, it’s new to the comp but we’ve really focused on bringing those Talent Shield girls up and I think we’ll probably have one of the youngest lists going around, but we see the future in bringing those girls up, getting them involved with the senior group, playing development league weekly,” Hunt said. “So we’re putting pressure on the senior girls to be the best players they could be.”


A new aspect in the 2022 SANFL Women’s season is the 16-a-side rule which will help the South Australian state league adapt to that of the AFL Women’s competition. Hunt said it would make it interesting, opening up more space on the field, and he believed it would benefit the Bulldogs’ running game. With the Dogs’ home ground of X Convenience Oval being so large – and playing five home games there in the first seven rounds – Central would be able to build gameplans around the ground at training.

“I think it opens up, there’s more space on the oval at times. Certainly we’ve been able to train for it. When you put the anti-density in too, you create some real big open areas and open spaces,” Hunt said. “Which again will make sure we’ve quick and speedy and we can use that space to our advantage and we all know Elizabeth Oval is quite a big oval, so hopefully that will put us in good stead. “Especially early in the season when we play a fair few home games. “I think the 16-a-side works well for us in the way that we will structure up.”


Along with the names he mentioned earlier, Hunt said defenders such as Madison Lane, Demi Sonneman and Georgia Madigan could be a few more experienced players to keep an eye on season 2022, whilst a plethora of younger players would be given opportunities to step up.

“There will be plenty of opportunities and I see those girls are the one that may just have a lot of different positions or different view on how the game’s going to be played in how we structure up and that may suit them really well, and they may do some amazing things week-in, week-out,” Hunt said.


Now with his first official game as coach just a week away, Hunt admitted her was feeling some nerves, but was looking forward to getting out on the park to play for points.

“I was a bit nervous as always, with the way we structure we’ve got a trial game this week, we’ll just roll into training and it will almost be like any other week. As we get closer and closer, the nerves will probably hit me a little bit more,” Hunt said.

“But I think I’m probably old enough and wise enough to know it’s another game of footy and we’ve got to make sure we’ve prepared the best we can, especially playing on our homeground. “To put out a really good performance in Round 1 to show that we’re here to really shake up the comp, it’s important for us.”

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