JOINING her father in the red and black for season 2022, Allani Dawes‘ move from Thebarton Oval to Hisense Stadium was as much about new lessons as it was about family. In the end, the former Sturt defender was left with a choice as to whether or not to return to Sturt where her sister Elsie was, or join father Bruce at West Adelaide.
“I actually had a break from football last year, so to move it was still a big decision, I was debating between going back to Sturt, or West Adelaide,” Dawes said. “My sister plays at Sturt and my father’s the coach at West Adelaide.
“Honestly it came down to a bit of, do I try something new? Or not and try and go back to something that I already know. I’ve had the coaches at Sturt for a while, so it’s technically not going to new coaches there, the West Adelaide would be newer coaches and learning more football skills, how to play and work was closer to West Adelaide. In the end I followed dad instead of my sister.”
As it may have become obvious from having three family members in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s fraternity, Dawes comes from a “football family”.
“When we grew up, that’s what we did,” Dawes said. “We did Auskick, all of us did actually. My sister and I both played football in the junior boys grades until you couldn’t anymore because netball took over. As soon as it came back – I’m from Mount Lofty – as soon as you could play again, the actual A Grade squad, I couldn’t play because I was too young and permits for Under 16s women’s weren’t a thing yet.
“It was very new, you didn’t want to injure yourself, so I would train with our A Grade squad and once we had an 18s team, I was in the 18s as well as doing seniors as well. Then the following year we didn’t have 18s anymore so I was just in seniors from there at Mount Lofty.”
Following her development at Mount Lofty, Dawes headed to Sturt where she took up a spot in the junior program. In 2019 her father Bruce – who had been an Under 18s assistant in the Sturt boys program and of the Mount Lofty women’s team – was appointed head coach and would coach for for a couple of seasons. Following his appointment at West Adelaide, Allani opted to head to West Adelaide after missing the 2022 SANFL Women’s season.
On the field, Dawes describes herself as having a strong football brain, and being able to analyse the play and get into the right spots. That, along with being an accountable player is what has helped her forge a career in the state’s top tier.
“I think as a defender I stay on my player and I don’t move away from that,” Dawes said. “You defend when you defend, you attack when you attack but just consistently I stay on my defender and I understand structures and things like that. My skills I think are pretty good, they can hit a target, so I think just the smarts and also just doing my job, and I do my job well.”
In 2023, Dawes is looking to expand her defensive ability to be able to utilise her offensive prowess, and impact a game in different ways rather than just negating her opponent.
“As a defensive player, definitely I defend, but my next move is to now attack from the defensive position,” Dawes said. “Such as when we do have a turnover, what am I doing? How am I going to be helping my team from now on? Getting more possessions. I would say my stats don’t exactly show my game, it doesn’t have a lot of disposals in it, however the player I’m on also doesn’t have a lot of disposals in it. Now that I’ve learnt how to shut down the player, how do I become dangerous in myself?”
Dawes started the preseason in the rehabilitation group, and was working hard on getting fit for the season ahead. With that being her off-season goal, Dawes said she also had some aims at her new club.
“My overarching goal from team wise is to become overall more successful and more cohesive because there’s new players, there’s new coaches so that is going to take some time so how quick can we adapt to it?” Dawes said. “A goal for me is I’d like to play in the League team this year.”