Underdog Saints certainly not overawed by the occasion
WHEN it comes to this VFLW season, the Southern Saints have been one of those sides you just cannot really underestimate.
They may have ultimately finished fifth on the ladder this season, but three big wins in a row against at times much more highly fancied opponents has seen them make their very first VFLW Grand Final.
Southern Saints’ coach Dale Robinson certainly believes her charges have taken confidence from the last few weeks and the fact they have taken so many huge scalps in a row.
“We’ve really hit some form at the right time of year and I think the connection the group has, and the will to play for each other and they’re not just out there for themselves has been a really big impact and something that we’ve really seen a change in in the last couple of weeks and it’s been there all year in patches and it’s probably just really come together at the right time of the year,” she said.
Not only do Robinson and the Saints take confidence from the past few weeks, but from the fact that they have been one of the most competitive sides against the competition benchmark Bombers in 2022.
“Yeah we do (take confidence),” she said. “And I think both of us play a really good brand of football. “I think we both play very similar brands of football as well and it’s knowing that we can match that and hopefully the team that turns up the best from a mindset perspective on the day come out at the end with the win.”
Despite not getting the week off like the Bombers, there was no rest for Robinson, who was already into preparation mode a mere 24 hours after that epic Preliminary Final win. She said she was “keeping things pretty simple and knowing that the girls know what we need to do and get the bodies through, getting good recovery in and getting prepared for the weekend”.
Much like the Bombers, the Saints have kept a pretty settled line up all season, not relying on many AFLW stars throughout the season. Robinson definitely thinks it is a huge positive.
“Oh it’s helped massively. Brendan [Major, coach of Essendon] and I spoke before [at the Grand Final media day], so we’re probably two of the sides that have really kept our VFL group quite compact all year, and you know we’ve had some of our AFLW girls come through, but it’s really around those girls that needed that bit of time,” Robinson said. They seamlessly come into the group, the group accept them really well but the last few weeks and with all the changes with AFLW and that we’ve just been able to get back to our core VFL group and that’s what I’ve been about, that ensuring at that level we’re building a VFL side that’s complimented by our AFLW program but never reliant on it.”
Despite last playing the Bombers about a month ago, Robinson was not worried back then about playing any so called “ace cards” with the prospect of the two sides potentially meeting again in finals.
“You go into every game wanting to win it,”Robinson said. It’s about putting the right foot forward, it’s about looking at the things we can improve on, looking at the things that work really well and strengthening those, and they’re the things that we’ve taken away from that game.”
When asked how she is going to counter the dominance of the Essendon forwardline, Robinson had a pretty straightforward answer.
“I think that’s full team pressure, so that’s not just relying on my defenders,” she said. “It’s making sure that we’re getting pressure all across the ground that’s making the difficult entries so they’re not getting silver service essentially because they have been a great forward line, they’ve scored a lot of goals this year, so it’s really about making sure there’s pressure all up the ground.”
Will the Saints continue their monumental run of picking off much more fancied opponents and claim their very first VFLW title? Only 48 odd hours to go until we find out.