Geelong AFLW recruits to fill needs

IDENTIFYING a couple of crucial needs, Geelong AFL Women’s coach Dan Lowther said the team “flagged” potential players to come to the Cattery, and landed on the experienced duo of Erin Hoare and Kate Surman. The Season 8 Cats will enter the season with the AFLW-capped pair, as well as Irish duo Aishling Moloney and Anna-Rose Kennedy as they set their sights on improving on their elimination final exit.

Hoare, who was taken with pick one in the AFL Women’s Supplementary Draft, is a past Cat, having played seven games in Geelong’s inaugural season after four with Melbourne in 2018. The former netball – who spent time with both Melbourne Vixens and NSW Swifts before taking up a spot with the Demons and then Cats, retired in 2019 to travel overseas to study at Cambridge University and start a family.

Lowther said Hoare was always keen on returning to the sport at some point, it was always a matter of “timing” for the 194cm ruck.

“We’ve always been in dialogue with her to suggest when she’s happy with a conversation we could entertain that. Olivia Fuller‘s been doing a great job, undersized compared to some of the rucks around the league, but she’s an athlete, does her best.

“Around the ground she is quite athletic. But it’s the hitouts where we’re lacking to give our mids first use of the ball. When we found out she was keen, we were like we need to explore this because it’s an area for us to improve on around the competition.”

Ranked 16th across the league in terms of hitouts, Lowther and the Cats knew a more hitout-dominant ruck to share the load with Fuller would be required, so when the stars aligned, it seemed like fate. Then there was executing a trade to be able to select her in the AFLW Supplementary Draft.

“She’s left no stone unturned, so when we knew she was going to be available, it just happened to be when Laura Gardiner – which I saw Laura being an important player going forward, being a young midfielder learning the game still and accumulating the football – she probably didn’t see a position in a team that our midfield currently that she was pretty keen to start now, and get her hands dirty now, which I can understand,” Lowther said.

“When she decided to go to Sydney, it just opened up that trade opportunity to get that number one pick and it was just a no-brainer that Erin was the problem we’re still trying to solve going forward, so to take Erin was no risk for us. The reward is going to be far greater.”

Along with starting to get an extra “advantage” via hitouts, the club also identified that a different forward mix was required for the Cats to take the next step. Enter former Port Adelaide and Gold Coast talent, Surman.

“We just identified we needed scoring power and looking at her footage for both Gold Coast and Port,” Lowther said. “She plays that hybrid forward-mid role because she’s strong in the air for her size, she’s low to the ground, her groundballs are clean.

“She just has that knack of getting forward and trying to score. It’s a bit of a rarity I think across the competition. There’s not many players who have this willingness to try and score and for her it comes pretty natural and we need that look in our front half.”

Once the Cats had identified the type of player they were after, they “flagged” a number of players, including Surman, who indicated she was interested in the move back to her home state and the role she would play.

“Being a Ballarat girl from back in the day, Geelong supporter as well which did help I suppose,” Lowther said. “I think the opportunity for her and the conversations around the role she might play in our team excited for her. Everything was amicable because we had Madeline Keryk from our team that was not going to be contracted get an opportunity at Port because of it.

“That was a bit of a straight swap. Mads was a fantastic person and player but just not the kind of player we needed going forward, so for her to keep playing is brilliant. The change for Kate to come to us made it even easier so it even helped out there too.”

Though a lot less is known about their in-match ability, Lowther is equally excited about what the Irish pair could add to the team’s depth.

“Aishling Moloney’s a forward, quite tall and dynamic and Anna-Rose Kennedy’s a defender or a mid,” Lowther said. “Both are really good size, really good movers.”

Looking on the season ahead, Lowther said it was more about producing consistency and effort, week-in, week-out.

“Putting into practice what we’ve been training for the last six months, that’s going to be the growth measurements that we’re going to implement,” Lowther said. “Wins and losses are quite important clearly, but for us it’s finals. It’s a baseline to play finals again and have another crack at getting through that first round. There’s a lot to achieve before that, but to play finals again for our girls is clearly on the agenda.”

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