Knights break down the puzzle pieces in search of small wins

THE NORTHERN Knights are breaking down their game into “little puzzle pieces” in 2023, as new girls head coach Allana Dickie puts her “flavour” on the program. Fresh off a strong preseason which yielded league-leading team averages across multiple testing events, the Northern region is raring to go.

Having allotted time to focus on what the game looks like both with and without the ball, Dickie says her Knights will establish small goals as part of a process-driven 2023 campaign.

“An element that we want to exhibit across every game is being really competitive in the contest,” she said. “Starting off we were focussing on our pressure on the ball from a team defence point of view. In our first practice match that was very much our main focus along with being strong in the contest.

“Next we’ll be focussing more on what we do when we’ve got the ball… but as we hit Round 1, from what we’ve been learning we’ll pick one or two focusses that we want to keep trying to progress throughout the game.

“It’s not so much about just the scoreboard, I want them to start focussing on the process and little process goals that give us better outcomes.”

An area where Dickie says the Knights have “fallen down” in the past is up forward. Now, with a couple of key targets in tow, Northern is well poised to become a more potent attacking side. Meanwhile at the other end of the ground, their rebounding strength remains.

“We’ve got Jessica Fitzpatrick, she’s one who has been in really good form over the preseason and she’ll be a key target for us up forward alongside Isabella Parnell,” Dickie said.

“So we’ve got a couple key targets in our forwardline that will help, and Ava Jordan will actually play as a small forward more so than an inside mid this year… we want to see her develop that small forward role and build on that craft.

“We’ve been pretty happy with our backline in regards to being able to rebound the ball out of defensive 50. I think across all the lines our backline will be probably our strongest.”

Jordan is the sole Knight in this year’s Under 18 Vic Metro hub, but over-ager Lulu Beatty also earned representative honours last year. She is said to have taken her game to “another level”, as one of four 19th-year players returning to the program, and one who stands a chance in the upcoming supplementary draft.

Lulu Beatty in Vic Metro colours last year | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

For all the draft eligible talent above, the age profile of the squad features a good deal of under-agers. Dickie is positive that the region’s investment their 16 and 17-year-olds will bode well for the future, and highlighted a couple of bottom-agers to watch.

“We’ve got Holly Ridewood and Zoe Hargreaves who are both 2006-born,” she said. “They’re two very strong and athletic players. Both can compete well overhead.

“Holly will potentially play wing and maybe even as a high forward or a high back. She’s played predominantly wing for us throughout the practice matches so she’ll be one we sort of throw around.

“Then Zoe, she’s played a bit through midfield for us and she’ll play majority midfield, but then also again might roll back or forward. They’re a couple of versatile players that we’re pretty excited about with the way that they go about their game.”

The Knights will vote on their leadership group tonight, with said positions set to be announced at Monday’s jumper presentation. Only a few niggles and one long-term knee injury have disrupted the side’s preseason momentum, as they seek to “reap the rewards” for their hard work.

As opposed to the Coates Talent League’s country-based regions, Northern will begin its campaign in Round 3. The Knights are set for a road trip to Wangaratta to face the Murray Bushrangers on April 1.

Before that, they’ll take on the Western Jets in another practice match on Wednesday and put a few more puzzle pieces into place ahead of season proper.

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