Reigning premier Dogs “just as hungry” in 2024

PREMIERSHIP success has not dampened the appetite of Central District’s SANFL Women’s side, with coach Ben Hunt declaring his team is “just as hungry to hunt” and does not agree with the assertion the reigning premiers are “the hunted”.

While externally winning a flag will remove any underdog tag and see opinions change from being the “hunter” to “the hunted”, Hunt had a different view heading into the 2024 SANFL Women’s season.

“A lot of people use the term that ‘we’re now the hunted instead of the hunters’ but I’m not sure I agree with that,” Hunt said. “I think if anything we want to be just as hungry and hunt and beat opposition.

“We’re the reigning premiers, but at the end of the day I want to beat every other team as much as I did last year, and the players do themselves as well. I haven’t seen any complacency or anything like that in the group at trainings.”

Hunt admitted the trial game form – which included a heavy seven-goal loss to Glenelg, and then a five-point defeat to Woodville-West Torrens – had been patchy, but he said that was more about finding the right combinations and getting back to playing the Bulldogs’ brand of football.

“Our trial game form was a bit hit and miss at times, but I thought at times when we did play our footy, it worked really well,” Hunt said. “We tried people in multiple positions and different things and different looks and setups, and we learnt plenty from it.

“I think for me not much changes in terms of we’ve still got to go out and hunt every team we play, we’re just taking it one week at a time. I know that’s a classic cliche in footy, but for me to dumb it down, is let’s just take it a week at a time and focus on that.”

Upon reflecting on last year’s incredible success, Hunt said he was “extremely proud of the girls” and in the months following the immediate aftermath, said everyone could appreciate what they had accomplished.

“We had our season launch and young Charlotte Riggs gets up there and says ‘I reflect on it now and realise this is something that will bond us forever’ and I think that’s something it does do, it bonds you forever,” Hunt said.

“No matter what we’re a premiership team and I think for me that was last year and we move on, but I think in five years time or 10 years time and we get together and we can really appreciate it even more. That’s the big thing, that these girls are now premiership players and inaugural premiership players too which is a big thing for the footy club so that’s where down the track we’ll all get to enjoy it a bit more.

“It was good to enjoy it at the time and we had celebrations and the club did things for us, but now it’s just back to the grind and get on with this year.”

Riggs is one of three members of the AFLW Academy from the Bulldogs, with teammates Jasmine Evans and the returning Georgia McKee also making the prestigious squad. McKee is returning off an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in 2023, missing the entire season.

“She’s been slowly getting better and better and better each week and she’ll be a valuable addition to our team and again probably these young girls to use both sides of their body is massive for us,” Hunt said.

As for being the only team in the nation with three AFLW Academy members, Hunt said it was “reward for effort” for not just the players, but the club’s development as well.

“I think that’s fantastic for us,” he said. “That was one thing when I first got to the club, the introduction of the development league.

“I remember saying to everyone at the time ‘let’s just promote all our young players up ad let’s get them playing footy’ and I think that’s a little bit of reward for the effort that they’ve done and also from our point of view as a club, we’ve promoted them and we’ve helped coach them and given them the tools and they’ve been able to go.

“The only negative part of that is I think is they’ve got one game where they can’t play because they’ve got AFLW Academy commitments, and we’re the only club that’s got first choice League players missing, but again I would never hold them back. I think it’s fantastic for them and I hope that they can keep flourishing and play in the AFLW at some stage.”

Central District will bring in more youth to challenge for senior spots this season, with 2008-born Miyu Endersby the name to remember.

“She’s part of the State Under 16s and she’s only a 15 year-old girl but shows a lot of potential in the ruck and really anywhere,” Hunt said. “She’s versatile, she can play forward or back, and has got a really good work ethic and great attitude.”

Along with Endersby, fellow youngster and also state softballer, Tara Lord is another to keep an eye on, while from the mature-age perspective, ex-Rooster Letisha Ackland and former Eagle, Neave Delaney will maintain pressure on the senior side.

The season is now a week away, with Central District playing on opening night against Norwood at The Parade. Hunt said while his side preferred to go about their business “quietly in the background”, he said he hoped there would be a big crowd to open the 2024 season.

“We’re just preparing ourselves like we would against anyone, against any other week,” Hunt said. “The best we can to make sure we can go out there and play the best footy we can. The first round’s always a little bit hard as there’s not a hell of a lot of vision to watch of opposition team’s but we’re just preparing for us and we’ll go about our business and see how we go.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments