Wendland switches bat for ball

CENTRAL District forward-midfielder Caitlin Wendland is a latecomer to Australian rules football, with the former cricketer now entrenched in the culture at Elizabeth. With a hardball focus the main strength for Wendland, she has had plenty of role models to look up to over the journey in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s.

“I’d say within the team it’s been Shelby (captain Shelby Smith),” Wendland said. “She’s been a great role model for me, I look up to her a lot. Just the way she plays and goes about it. I’ve got a lot to learn off her. Even Rosie (Katelyn Rosenzweig) as well. She’s basically took me under her wing from the first season so I’m very grateful for that.”

Central District players might have been forgiven for thinking that during the 2021 preseason that they were not only seeing double, but triple when Wendland walked through the doors. She arrived with triplet sisters Kasey and Jessica, in a unique story to the SANFL Women’s. The trio turned 19 in September, so have plenty of years left to confuse opposition.

Of the three, Caitlin had the most consistent football in 2022, playing 11 games for the red, white and blue. There, she averaged 13.5 disposals, 1.8 marks, 3.1 clearances, 6.5 tackles and booted six goals in a breakout season. Aside from a quiet first game of just four disposals, Wendland recorded double-figure disposals in every other game, and saved her best until almost last with a 21-disposal, four-mark, four-clearance, seven-tackle, three-inside 50 and three-goal game against Woodville-West Torrens in Round 11.

“I’d say I’d like to get in there and get the ball, try and get the ball out to my teammates. I love going in hard,” Wendland said. “I love being on-ball, getting in the midfield, also playing up forward and kicking a few goals as well, that’s quite nice.”

Wendland said she would place a lot of focus in the gym on her running and doing extra training outside the expected work, to improve her work rate and impact up the ground. The teenager is eyeing off more midfield minutes in 2023, but still looks forward to getting inside 50 and hitting the scoreboard. As for an inspiration at AFL Women’s level, Wendland looks up to a tough Tiger.

“I have been a big fan of Monique Conti,” Wendland said. “I love how she plays. I think she can just change a game instantly and she’s a bit crafty as well. The way she moves the ball around the ground too, always seems to impact.”

From a team aspect, Central District came agonisingly close to reaching finals, and that milestone is something Wendland and the team firmly have in mind for the upcoming 2023 SANFL Women’s season.

“For Centrals, hopefully try and get into finals this season would be nice, because we’ve been so close but haven’t quite got there,” Wendland said. “For me just try and be consistent and have a good season. Just be the best player I can be for the team.”

As for how the Bulldogs would crack into the top four, Wendland said the side needed to play four quarters consistently to ensure the win.

“I think we would start off well and then just let the game go a bit and that’s probably when we lost that chance to win games when we should have,” she said. “This year I think we have a good energy and vibe about us this season so I definitely think we can do that.”

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