Dees determined to create “new story”

MELBOURNE’s message to the rest of the AFL Women’s competition is clear, the Demons will not be living in the past and instead focused fully on creating another chapter in their fabled history. The reigning premiers got the job done last year after a number of near misses in past seasons, but coach Mick Stinear said his group had no intentions of “taking anything for granted”.

“At no stage are we interested in replicating last year, we’re interested in creating a new story and new memories, and taking our team and women’s football to another level,” he said. “We know no one else is hanging around, everyone is moving forward and there’s been a significant shift in women’s football in regards to training, and we want to rise with that, not live in the past.”

Stinear is aware of the external expectations around the group with the reigning premiers holding onto a bulk of its list from its Season 7 premiership to take into Season 8. Despite those expectations, Stinear said it does not count for much once the new season rolls around.

“I think externally the fact that we’re retained our list, obviously it’s a good starting point but it doesn’t guarantee you anything,” he said. “Nothing replaces hard work, so that’s our priority, is to get to work.

“We don’t think just because we’ve retained the group it makes us a good team. All it is, is a starting point, so that’s the priority for us, getting to work and not assuming anything or taking anything for granted.”

Internally, Stinear said the team would do what it always wanted to achieve out of a season and that was to improve and build a stronger group cohesion.

“I think our expectation is we continue to build on our connections with each other to enhance our performance as a team and use it to advantage the fact we retained our group,” he said. “That comes through challenging each other, supporting each other, taking our training to another level, taking our gamestyle and our ability to support and instruct each other to another level.”

Though the focus is on Season 8, Stinear fondly remembered last season not just for the premiership itself, but once the dust settled, realised what the group had built. It was not a one-season job, and instead, slowly built up year on year to reach the ultimate prize.

“In the previous grand final in the previous season, we had the talent and a bit of a method to be able to compete with the best but we couldn’t quite bring it all together when it mattered,” Stinear said. “Then fast forward six or seven months and the group had significantly improved and really embraced and enjoyed playing in big games and the challenge of big moments, it was considerable growth in a short space of time.

“But it had been building for a number of years. I think the group learnt a hell of a lot out of last year and really enjoyed their footy and potentially unlocked a bit of a formula for continued success which is what we’re hoping for.”

In addition to the external expectations around ladder position, many expect the personnel losses from other contenders such as Brisbane – who are without the likes of Emily Bates, Jesse Wardlaw and Greta Bodey for the upcoming season – will help strengthen the Demons’ grasp on the premiership cup.

Though it might be true, Stinear said changes – be it planned or unplanned – can “create opportunities” and he was not going to take the Lions, or any other side, lightly.

“For someone like Brisbane, they’ve lost some key personnel, but they’ve got some serious depth in their side and that can create opportunities for others,” he said. “I don’t reflect too much what’s happened with the opposition, but more from our own personal point of view, we’re really thankful that we’ve been able to retain a large number of our squad which we continue to build on some consistency and some key growth that we had last year, we can look to leverage off that and take it to another level.

“We certainly know if you want to have any success in this competition, it’s all built off hard work and we start from scratch again. We’re fortunate we’ve had a lot of learning through this group through previous seasons we can leverage off coming into the new one.”

Melbourne has been able to bring in a number of players including Gaelic talent and forward Aimee Mackin – sister of Blaithin – who Stinear describes as having a “punishing left foot” with “serious power” and agility and movement that will make her difficult for any defender to contain.

Mackin joins the likes of Saraid Taylor – who is “evolving” her game – Georgie Fowler and Rhiannon Watt. Fowler, who had experience with GWS, is a young developing player with a “great work ethic” with her “speed and endurance combination”. Watt is nearing a return to play in the early stages of the season coming off an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury but has already been “enormous” off-field, to be nominated into the four-player leadership group.


In terms of who Stinear sees as his club’s biggest threats to the flag, the Melbourne mentor named a quartet of usual suspects, with a prediction for one club to be a riser in Season 8.

“Brisbane and Adelaide, they’re not going anywhere,” Stinear said. “They’re really well run programs and got a competitive list. They’re going to be there again. I think Collingwood will be competitive, and I think North is the team that continues to grow and evolve, and they’ve done a good job with their list and Darren Crocker is a great coach. They’re going to be ones to watch and it’s always hard to beat them.”

The Demons will get their chance against Collingwood in Round 1, playing the Magpies in the season opener. Collingwood will welcome back midfielders Bri Davey and Britt Bonnici for the clash, and Stinear knows just how tough of a contest it will be.

“What a fantastic opportunity for our club and our women’s program to kick the season off,” Stinear said. “Excited to play Collingwood, they’ll welcome some players back, they’ve had a little bit of change and they’ll be a tough opponent so hopefully we can celebrate the return of women’s footy with a great contest.”

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