“Fitter” Butterworth keen to make impact

WHILE many people might have been digging in around the dining table over the Christmas break, Dandenong Stingrays forward Sophie Butterworth was digging in out on the track. The top-age forward came back to preseason training by her own admission “struggling”, so she set herself a goal of changing that over the Summer break and immediately saw the results once she returned in the new year.

“On the backend of the season, the first phase of it before the Christmas break, I felt I was quite struggling fitness wise,” Butterworth said. “Then I took the Christmas break to really work on my fitness, and came back a lot fitter and ended up beating my time trial by 42 seconds, and hard work started paying off which was really good.”

Having played through the 2022 NAB League season alongside the likes of Mackenzie Eardley and Amber Clarke who went up to Hawthorn and Essendon respectively, and then forward/midfielder Charlotte Blair heading to the Pies, Butterworth said it was inspirational to look at what they had accomplished.

“I think knowing those were pretty close to me, they were my friends,” she said. “I look at them and go ‘woah if they can do it, I can do it’, they’re real rolemodels for me. It’s good to have them by my side.”

Standing at 181cm, it is no surprise that the forward is likely to role through both the deep and high positions, and after six games in 2022, is looking to build on that. Booting nine goals in six games, Butterworth only averaged the 4.7 touches, and is looking to build on that in 2023.

“I definitely think my kicking is pretty strong, having that left foot,” Butterworth said. “I think hitting the scoreboard is something that’s really good. To improve on, definitely my aerobic capacity, just keep it going.”

If Round 1 is anything to go by, Butterworth did that, picking up 11 disposals, clunking four marks and laying seven tackles in what was ultimately a disappointing loss for the Stingrays against the Sydney Swans Academy in a blustery Hastings. Her performance though lent itself to being capable of playing further afield than in 2022, and taking after the likes of St Kilda recruit, Jesse Wardlaw.

“I definitely keep my eye on her, when she plays,” Butterworth said. “Then back on what my coaches saying, he really wants me to play like Jeremy Cameron, so this season I’ll definitely be watching him and taking notes.”

The Collingwood supporter in the men’s competition follows a variety of teams in the AFL Women’s due to having friends split across half the competition. With past teammates and coaches among her main mentors, Butterworth is just taking it “one game at a time” and will look to nominate Victoria unless interest arose interstate.

“I just want to play each game as it is, I don’t want to look too far forward and get my hopes up and bring myself down,” Butterworth said. “I’m not planning on going interstate, but if the opportunity comes up then I’ll obviously take time to think about that.”

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