Time to build on foundation, says Top Dog

WESTERN Bulldogs VFLW coach Rhys Cahir is coming into his second season in the role off the back of a very different preseason compared to his first year in the role.

But, he says it has still been a really positive preseason.

“It’s been really good,” he said. “Obviously it’s gone really quick, and we’ve kept a fair whack of last year’s group which is completely different to the year before when I took the role on, which is a head start, and most of our staff and coaching group have come back too, other then Tommy Cashin who got the job at Collingwood halfway through preseason, but it’s been a pretty consistent group from last year and then added a fair bit to it.”

This also means Cahir could not name one particular stand out from preseason.

“The whole group really,” he said. “I guess we set pretty high standards last year and the ones that have come back have kept those standards up, and the new ones have come in and bought in really quickly, so it’s actually been really overall the group’s pushed along really quickly and developed together. So I wouldn’t say there’s been one stand out, but the group’s been terrific”

Despite keeping a lot of the 2023 squad, there are still plenty of new faces at the Kennel this season. Cahir said that they “purposefully went out for a bit of leadership” and that “we’ve got a good mix of VFL experience and some younger delisted AFL players to help fil some gaps in our group.”

Some of those new faces include former VFLW Bombers Courtney Ugle and Mia-Rae Clifford, former VFLW Cat Chloe Leonard, former AFLW Blue Imogen Milford, former AFLW Roo Cassidy Mailer and former AFLW Saint Renee Saulitis.

“I guess for us it was about building a foundation.” Cahir said, reflecting on last season.

“When I took the role from the interview with Chris Grant and Nathan Burke, it was about building a development program which it certainly still is, and we’re supporting younger players hoping to get back or to AFLW. I guess by doing that last year and focusing on young players I guess we were a lot more competitive than previous years.

“It was a good year and a frustrating year because we lost those five games by less than a kick, so we won our three games but those five games I think we focused on just doing a few extra things a bit better during games and hopefully we can turn those results around and set ourselves up for the year.”

Last season saw a positive step forward for the Bulldogs, but Cahir said that there has not been a specific plan to build on that momentum.

“No real plan, I guess we’re just focusing on getting better each session we’ve done,” he said. “We kept a fair whack of the group from last year whereas the previous year we kept six out of 60, so it was a fresh start, new coach, new game plan, stuff like that, so just getting better at what we did well last year for longer is probably been a real focus.

“Nothing much has changed around that, it’s just being consistent with it when we’re at training and then being able to take it into games this year, and hopefully hold us in good stead for longer in games and we don’t get runs of the opposition kicking three or four goals on us and then we fly back and just get beaten, we want to be consistent and have probably a bit more control of games.”

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