Sandral the well rounded footballer

WESTERN Bulldogs VFLW vice-captain Mary Sandral has had quite the footy journey, and she has seen a lot in her time.

She is currently vice captain at the Bulldogs under Riley Christgoergl, and admitted that although she never expected to be a leader at the Bulldogs, now that she is in the role is thoroughly enjoying it.

Her footy journey however began in a tiny country town, and then continued onto the big smoke.

“I played footy as a little kid, played Auskick kind of thing,” Sandral said. “I’m from the country, so along the NSW border, a small town called Oaklands. So I played there, played junior footy there, and then played a little bit at school, and then when I came down to uni in Melbourne I played at the [Western] Spurs in the Northern footy league, and from there been at the Doggies since the end of 2018.”

She ultimately picked the Bulldogs because of their alignment with the Spurs. The Dogs had just taken over the Spurs’ VFLW license, there was a strong connection between the clubs and a lot of Dogs at the time were ex Spurs players.

She has seen the full highs and lows during her time at the Bulldogs. She was lucky enough to play in the 2019 VFLW Grand Final, which unfortunately for her did not go the way she hoped as her Bulldogs went down to Collingwood at Ikon Park.

“That was a really great season. Obviously it was a tough end to the year on Grand Final day,” Sandral said. “That year was a really special thing to be a part of. “We had a really great group, and we sort of took the finals series by storm in a little way, like we weren’t expected to do what we did. “Had a couple of really good wins and we actually beat Collingwood at Port Melbourne a couple of weeks before to get into the Grand Final, and then obviously had that week off, went into that Grand Final and then they beat us on Grand Final day.

“I think that was a tough day for sure. I think with all the build up and that kind of thing, especially to get beaten pretty well, but at the end of the day I think it just pushes you more to succeed, obviously getting that close, so hopefully that’s something we’re building towards.”

Mary Sandral
Mary Sandral playing against Essendon in the VFLW on the weekend. Picture credit: Nigel Barrie Photography

Three years and two pandemic disrupted seasons later, and things are a very different story. The Bulldogs currently sit last on the VFLW ladder with no wins to their name. As a forward Sandral has been starved of opportunities to impact this season, but has found a way to ensure her and those around her stay positive.  

“I definitely think it’s been a little bit of a mindset shift for me and I’ve chatted to other players, forwards especially, about that,” Sandral said. “Just really trying to break down your craft and the things that you can do well and then basically just trying to focus on those. So you’ve just got to keep doing the right things. “We’ve been talking quite heavily about making sure that we’re leading the right patterns, that we’re really strong in our defensive pressure when it does come in, things like that.

“Because obviously it’s been limited opportunities so you really want to take those opportunities when you can, but yeah I think if sometimes obviously if we look at the big picture of it all it can get overwhelming I think at times. “I think focusing on those little things, really just honing in on what you can do well and really pushing those things has been important.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was not easy for anyone, and Sandral did not escape its affects. Although she does not believe it affected her more than anyone else in a similar situation to her, it also did not prevent the frustration of the stop/start nature of the VFLW the past few years and the momentum busting effects it had.

Sandral has plenty of hopes for what lies ahead in her football career. From wishing to play at the next level, to working towards a flag at the Bulldogs and continuing in the leadership space. She has been a train on player with the Bulldogs for a few years now, so she knows what to expect to make it at the next level.

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