Gippsland to provide a power of competitiveness

THE HALLMARKS of Gippsland Power’s program have long been laden with competitive spirit, and that will be no different for the girls team in 2023. Under new head coach Nathan Boyd, the Power are poised to showcase their contested acumen, but also have some “slick movers” to exploit on the outside.

“We’re really competitive. We’ve got a really good, competitive and contested bunch,” Boyd said. “They’re certainly willing to crack in and put their head over the footy, but we do need to work on a little bit of the polish once we’ve won it.

“We’ve got some really slick movers around the ground as well who can put pace on the ball. We’re really hopeful that we can play a fast brand, but that’s going to start with a competitive contested game to find those movers on the outside.”

Ruck Ahlee Penry will skipper the squad this season, a top-ager among the raft of future talent Gippsland is looking forward to nurturing. She fronts a four-player leadership group consisting of Elaina Domagala, Sophie Scalzo, and Charlotte Waller.

Amber Schutte is a top-ager to watch | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Though the 2005-born category is relatively thin in numbers compared to other regions, Vic Country talent hub member Amber Schutte is among the prospects Gippsland hopes to develop into AFLW Draft contenders. She, and the squad’s four over-agers are already on the radar.

“We would love to think that there’ll be some development through a couple of our players which will put them in contention for the draft,” Boyd said. “We’ve got Amber Schutte who’s in the Vic Country program and she’s working really hard on her development areas to make sure that she does put her hand up.

“I think our (19-year-olds) are all really keen to put their names up in lights for this year’s draft. We’ve got Alisha Molesworth and Elise Molesworth who are signed with Box Hill, and we’ve got Indi Makai and Tylah Burn who are signed with Casey. They’re tracking really well… they could get their opportunity if they can string some really good, consistent footy together.”

As is “part and parcel” with the talent pathways, the standard seems to lift every year. That running theme is something Boyd says is evident in Gippsland’s squad. There’s hardly a more highly touted underage talent the dynamic Ash Centra, who along with defender Ella Stoddart is already an established starter for the Power.

“We’ve got a young group,” Boyd said. “We’ve got a handful of ’05s, we’ve got a lot of ’06s, but the squad that we’ve picked to play is a majority ’07s. We’ve got some really good ’08s coming through as well.

Ash Centra is an exciting bottom-age talent | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

“Ash Centra is one for us who has been coming on for a couple of years. She’s still bottom-age. We’ve got Ella Stoddart, an ’07-born who was joint best and fairest winner last year for us, so she’s still got another couple of years in the program as well.

“The competition’s getting better every year and I think the opportunities are getting better every year so it is a slow burn.”

Aside from a patella issue Elise Molesworth is managing at Box Hill, the Power have been relatively healthy throughout preseason. A formal practice match has evaded them, but Boyd says the team is “trending well” in match simulation sessions.

Gippsland’s first Coates Talent League match for the year comes in Round 2, as the Power take on the GWS Giants Academy in Craigieburn on Sunday March 26. They’ll go into the match with “eyes wide open”.

“We seem to be really clear on our objectives and how we want to play,” Boyd said. “Doing it against opposition who’s out there to compete at 100 per cent will be a bit of a challenge.

“We obviously want to go out and maintain that really hard contested footy and try and put into place what we’ve been working on, and see some of the players throw a few of their weapons into the game. Result aside, we want to make sure that we’re seeing the girls really developing their growth areas.”

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