First three rounds the key to Central’s season

POOR starts in recent years have proved costly for Central District, which is why coach Ben Hunt is determined to reverse that trend in 2023. The South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s side missed out on finals again in 2022, despite finishing with a blaze of glory. Ultimately despite producing some outstanding performances – including knocking off the undefeated Sturt – the Bulldogs’ 1-4 start to the season proved too much of a hurdle to overcome.

“I think it took time for myself and the girls to probably understand each other on and off-field, the gameplan, some of the structures,” Hunt said. “I think you can see from the results mid-season onwards, we were really competitive and I think defensively we were a bit better. A couple of results go the other way and we may play finals footy.”

Hunt admitted that a good start was the key to the Bulldogs’ season, needing to get off to a strong start. In particular, matches against Woodville-West Torrens, Sturt and Norwood in the opening three weeks would either help or hinder their chances of securing a maiden finals berth.

“Our preseason we’ve structured a little bit differently this year,” Hunt said. “I keep talking to the girls about the first three rounds which are probably the key for setting ourselves up. Then every three to four games after that we focus on.

“Hopefully A) start the season well, but B) even start our games well because I think last year we had to come from behind in a few games. Where if we can get off to a good start, that sets up the game for us.”

Central District will go in with a vastly different forwardline setup in 2023, with key talls such as Katelyn Rosenzweig and Chantel Reynolds in the mix, while GWS GIANTS ruck Jess Allan and ex-Redleg tall Georgia Avery replace the outgoing Isabelle Starmer.

“We actually have a lot more height across the board which will be good,” Hunt said. “We’ve worked on our structures but doesn’t mean we’ll always play with tall forwards either because I think we were able to score well in games last year, but defensively is where we let ourselves down. I think we’re a lot better from that point of view. Certainly more height’s going to help us for sure.”

Though the Bulldogs will be minus young gun Georgia McKee (anterior cruciate ligament injury) and Paige Allan (West Adelaide) alongside Starmer, the league’s most northern based club has brought in premiership Rooster, Elaine Grigg. Capable of playing both midfield and forward, Hunt said she will more likely be used on a wing.

“We’re experimenting with Elaine,” Hunt said. “Obviously she’s a quality player, premiership player and can play forward. I think with her speed we could use that on the outside a bit more”

Though Central District went down to West Adelaide on the weekend, Hunt said pre-game that the trial matches were about testing out various combinations and seeing what worked for the season ahead. In their opening trial match, the Bulldogs defeated Woodville-West Torrens, but did fade out in the second half.

“For us it’s just about making sure we’re doing what we’ve been doing over the entire preseason and the way we move the ball and trying players in different positions so that we can have a look at them and know that we’ve got a Plan A, B and C up our sleeve,” Hunt said.

“Last week I thought we had a great first half, second half we dropped off, had the same amount of inside 50s as the Eagles but didn’t capitalise on them and went back to some old habits. It’s a learning environment and that’s what trial games are for and hopefully we’ll be better for it.”

Central District kick-starts its season on Saturday, February 18 with a midday clash against the Eagles at Elizabeth.

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