Q&A: Zoe Besanko (Dandenong Stingrays)

DANDENONG Stingrays skipper Zoe Besanko has enjoyed quite the rise since switching from the netball court to the footy field. A member of the AFLW Academy and key player in the Stingrays’ ruck-forward division, Besanko was named as captain for the club ahead of the 2024 season.

We spoke to the talented tall and leader at the 2024 Coates Talent League Preseason Testing Day.

Q: Zoe, tell us a bit about your footy journey?

ZB: “I first started playing netball and then slowly started making my way to footy through school. They told me I’m tall so to try it out, then fell in love with it. I started playing interleague and got through to the Stingrays pathway.”

Q: You’ve been thrown around in a couple of different roles, what do you see as your role this year?

ZB: “At the moment I will predominantly play key forward, and a bit of ruck and I’ve started to work on my inside mid craft as well.”

Q: Yourself and Elli Symonds work well together (as athletic ruck/forwards), are you able to lean off each other a bit?

ZB: “Absolutely, me and Elli do a lot together and I feel like we’ve got a really good connection, whether she’s ruck and I’m inside mid or vice-versa, we can really help each others out in that areas.”

Q: What do you see as some of the strengths in your game?

ZB: “Definitely marking and my athleticism, I feel I can really bring my football to the next level and I feel I can emphasise those in my game.”

Q: What improvements are you looking to make?

ZB: “My consistency with kicking and getting to hit those 45s, and repeat efforts.”

Q: Who do you look up to at the top level?

ZB: “With the women’s, definitely Kate Hore. I love her leadership and the way she gets around her team and she’s just an amazing player overall, and then (Marcus) Bontempelli as well for the same reasons.”

Q:Which club do you support?

ZB: “I’m a big Bulldogs supporter.”

Q: Any story behind that?

ZB: “My grampa was a trainer there for a long time. He’s actually got an award called the Bruce Wilkinson’s Trainers award, so I got to give the award to Bontempelli last year up on stage, so it was pretty cool.”

Q: You got to talk to him?

ZB: “Yeah I had a great chat with him and Artie Jones behind stage. Got to just to get to know a bit about them, but they’re lovely people so it was really good.”

Q: A lot of the Stingrays have come back and helped out the program, what’s that’s been like?

ZB: “With Mac Eardley coming back helping us with the forwardline and backline and especially Charli Ryan, she’s been a big key for me working on my inside mid craft but both amazing people and willing to help anyone.”

Q: What are your goals for the year?

ZB: “Definitely with being captain with the girls, just leading the girls and bringing everyone up with me. By the end of the year hopefully being drafted, that’s the end goal but taking it step by step. Hopefully a grand final with the girls and bringing everyone up with us.”

Q: Thoughts about draft nomination and whether or not you’d want to stay in Victoria or potentially nominate nationally?

ZB: “Ideally I’d love to stay in Victoria, but I’m happy to go anywhere. I want to play at any club if it means I got that opportunity to play AFLW.”

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