Wood “rapt” with Bombers’ strong start

AFTER playing catch-up across the opening two weeks and finishing strong, Essendon coach Natalie Wood put an emphasis on her Essendon side starting strongly against the Eagles. As the Bombers trudged back into the rooms at half-time having slammed home nine consecutive goals to open the match, it was fair to say the trip west to Perth was a raging success.

“With our competition any win is a great result but particularly to win on the road,” Wood said. “It’s our first trip away so there’s a lot of learnings for us as a program, but also for the players. A lot of players playing their first game interstate. There’s still a lot that we’ll take out of this, but we’re absolutely rapt to get the result that we did.”

Though the Eagles kicked the next three goals of the game from the midway point of the second term through to the third minute of the premiership quarter, they could not trim the margin below 37 points and the Bombers finished strong with four of the last five goals to record a 52-point win, 13.6 (84) to 4.8 (32). Wood said the strong start was a “real focus” during the week for the Bombers.

“Our first two rounds we had really strong third and fourth quarters, so we really wanted to go back and focus on what we were doing at the start,” she said. “We tweaked a few things within our program, but also put the onus back on the players to have a bit of a different approach and to start to work out how they can approach the start of their game.

“Whether it was a bit more clarity, whether it was something in their preparation. But it was a real focus for us so really rapt for the playing group to get the result, particularly in the first quarter and to go in at half-time, with I think it was the highest score in AFLW history at half-time. What an outstanding job, we set them a task to improve our first quarter and to get that result’s terrific.”

Essendon has had no trouble finding the big sticks, with plenty of forward targets. Despite star forward Bonnie Toogood not kicking a goal, it was the rising talents of Lucy Wales and Paige Scott who slotted three goals apiece, while Madison Prespakis, Jess Wuetschner and Daria Bannister all kicked multiple majors.

“We were really strategic with our signings and wanted a balance, not only of players on the field, but also the different experiences and the leadership that the players brought in,” Wood said. “Some of that’s from previous AFLW clubs, but we’ve also got a good level of experience from players that have played other sports so that holistically’s been really good for us. Then on the ground I think we’re getting a really good balance.”

Wales in particular had a breakout game for the Bombers after building strongly against All-Australian ruck, Breann Moody last week. Wood credited the former basketballer with having incredible smarts that allow her to compete with more experienced athletes.

“Steph’s been building from week to week and she’s had a really challenging job,” Wood said. “She played four quarters up against (Breann) Moody last week against Carlton and we really thought what we thought Breann had a terrific game last week, but we really thought Steph thought her way through, she’s a really intelligent athlete and coming from a basketball background really thinks her way through scenarios and we thought she really grew into the game and learnt a lot from Breann from the Carlton game and for her to come out and start with such confidence.”

Though the Bombers were thrilled with the win, Wood did identify an area o improvement from the match, with the Eagles working their way back into the game midway through the second term. After Bannister slotted a major in the 13th minute of the second term, West Coast booted 4.6 to Essendon’s 4.2.

“We do seem to lose our structure a little bit in defensive transition and that’s something we need to look at,” Wood said. “I thought West Coast did a really good job of getting the momentum back and really creating some free players and getting some really good overlap. That’s credit to West Coast they did that fantastic, but that’s something for us that we need to go back and look at, how do we rectify and try to stall players’ ability to do that, or shorten the time which they are doing that.

“I thought West Coast’s intent around the contest was excellent. I thought they played the quarters well and they didn’t drop their heads at all. Around the contest they were getting really active and they were losing us from our opponent control and then they were being clean and we probably had a few moments where we weren’t as clean and probably gave them too much separation.”

Essendon has a huge match at ETU Stadium next Sunday, September 18 when the Bombers go head-to-head with a Richmond side coming off its first win in Round 3 after two competitive efforts in the opening two rounds.

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