Devils out to make history for the Map in 2023

TASMANIAN football history runs deep in the Apple Isle, but there remains plenty more to make in the women’s space. That’s exactly what the Devils’ Under 18 girls side is out to do in 2023 under new head coach Jodie Clifford.

With “big shoes to fill” after the roaring success of Cameron Joyce and Jeromey Webberley‘s tenures in the role, Clifford has roused a call to action in posing the question to her squad: “what does it mean to wear the Map?”

“Our girls have the opportunity to create history,” she said. For those young girls that come into our programs in 20, 30 years time, we are creating the history of the Map for them.

“We’re in a little bit of a different situation to the boys and I think the Map’s something that the girls are really proud about, but I think they’re proud for a different reason. That’s because they’re going to be creating the history, not necessarily living up to the history.”

Tasmania is the lone full-time Coates Talent League team from outside of Victoria, but has punched above its weight since entering the competition as a permanent member in 2021. In the wake of strong results, Clifford is clear about her side’s intentions for the season ahead.

Georgia Clark is one of Tasmania’s top talents | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

“One of our goals is that we want to play finals footy,” she said. “The makeup of the roster gives us some really nice blocks. We’ve got four games, then we’ve got a community recess.

“We’ll focus on those first four games of footy, executing our gameplan and working to our strengths. Then we’ll review during that community recess block and see what we need to change, what else we need to bring into our program to make it as strong as we can.

Devils by name and nature on the field, Tasmania has built a brand around high intensity tackling pressure and being “fierce competitors”. The girls side is set to offer more of the same intent in 2023, while complimenting it with a touch of flair on the outside.

“We’ve got some really good runners that we’ll be able to utilise their strength,” Clifford said. “We want to be able to use the widths of the ground and play to our advantage in that regard, to transition quickly.”

That new-look, signature outside run is also set to suit the expanses of UTAS Stadium, where Tasmania kicks off its Coates Talent League campaign against the GWS Giants Academy on March 18.

As far as personnel go, the Devils have some draft eligible stars to keep an eye on. Among two AFLW Academy members is Georgia Clark, who has already formed a strong key forward partnership with Bellah Parker.

Brooke Barwick in action for the Devils | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

There’s the tall wildcard of Tunisha Kikoak, who offers the point of difference as a left-handed ruck or key position fold at either end of the ground. A strong midfield features over-ager Candice Belbin and Madison Lamb, but one key member will be missing – Brooke Barwick.

The star top-ager is arguably Tasmania’s top draft prospect, but tore her ACL during preseason and will instead take on a role as assistant to the Devils’ midfield line coach. Despite the on-field loss, Clifford holds an optimistic outlook.

“Brooke’s a great player and she’s a great leader,” she said. “It’s a huge loss for us but I think what’s our loss may be somebody else’s gain, and it gives another young girl a bit of an opportunity to come in and maybe do what Brooke has been able to do in the last couple of years. 

“We’re really excited to give Brooke a bit of a different education model and that is to get in the coaching box and learn from observing… I think it’ll be really good for her development. While she obviously can’t be out there, there’s still opportunity for her to learn and grow her own brand of footy as well.”

One player who could potentially benefit from more full-time midfield minutes is double under-ager Priya Bowering, who was among the youngsters Clifford identified as primed to make an impact throughout the year.

The Devils are set to publicly announce their captain and leadership group soon, ahead of next Saturday’s home outing. Tasmania has the bye in Round 2, before another game on the Apple Isle against Western.

>> TOP 5s: Tasmania Devils preseason testing

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