Stingrays focussed on individual development in 2023
DANDENONG Stingrays girls coach Josh Moore has his sights set on heavy individual development in 2023, as he transitions from assistant to head mentor.
The ‘Rays are coming off an unbeaten home-and-away campaign last year and while amending their upset Grand Final loss would be “great”, Moore maintains that is not the region’s core objective.
“We’re really focussed and narrowed in on developing the players and making sure that they can perform at their best week in, week out,” he said.
“I’ve got a really narrow focus on individual players and developing them rather than getting to the last game of the year. Obviously that’d be great to do but it’s certainly not a focus for us… the results have taken care of themselves over the past five or six years.”
Speaking of individuals and results, the Stingrays produced a whopping six AFLW draftees in 2022. With five over-agers returning is no surprise then, that they boast a strong squad once again.
The standouts are National Academy members Mikayla Williamson and Bianca Lyne, who are set to wax in relatively new midfield roles this season.
“They’ve both had outstanding preseasons and are tracking really well,” Moore said. “They’ve shown that they can perform on the big stage and I think this year’s just about continuing that growth for them, and also developing them in different areas of the ground.
“Early in the season they’ll both play as inside mids. As the season goes on I would love to add some development in the backline for Bianca, I think she’s got the attributes to be an intercept third tall defender.
“Mikayla, she’ll also start as an inside mid. I think she’s got a real turn of foot and a burst of speed that can damage opposition sides with going through the front of the stoppage. I’m keen for her to exploit that and then also rest as a forward because she’s quite good overhead.”
Ideally, their shifts to the inside will play into Dandenong’s plans when it comes to utilising strong outside run.
“I think it’s pretty common for Dandenong Stingrays to have some really good outside run, and that’s going to be no different for us this year,” Moore said.
“We’re going to be pretty quick on the outside so if we can break even on the inside, hence why Bianca and Mikayla move there, then we can do some damage and showcase all the girls’ talents. I would’ve thought that we’ll be a fairly good team to watch when we’re up and running.”
The side will be captained by tall defender Jemma Ramsdale, who looks to reprise the role that 2022 draftee Mackenzie Eardley has left vacant. She’s joined by Williamson, Lyne, Vic Country hub members Sophie Butterworth and Ruby Murdoch, and bottom-ager Jessica Pacevski in the leadership group.
2022 co-captain Felicity Crank is one of five over-agers set to return. Brooke Smith, Olivia Robinson, Abbey Tregellis and Eleanor Butler are the others, with all five also tied to VFLW clubs. There’s also a standout top-ager who, off an injury last year, is primed for a big year according to Moore.
“Meg Robertson has been an absolute standout,” he said. “I’ve been so proud of the way she’s attacked preseason. She was dominant in our practice match last week and I’ve got no doubt that she’s set herself up for a big year.
After “the longest preseason that they’ve ever had in their lives”, Dandenong’s Coates Talent League campaign gets underway on Saturday March 18 with a clash against the Sydney Swans Academy in Kilsyth.
Moore admits his crew has “no idea” about how the Swans will stack up as opposition, but says the focus will again be on what Dandenong can take out of the game in the way of execution.
“We’re just going to have a really strong focus on our game and how we want the game to look,” he said. “We’ve had a good four or five months to instil in the girls how we want the game to look. We’ve done a lot of training so now it’s just a matter of executing on gameday.”