TAC Cup Girls preview: Murray Bushrangers

MURRAY Bushrangers went undefeated in 2017, but finished second on the ladder due to a smaller percentage than premiers Calder Cannons. This was due to some narrow wins, especially in the last rounds of the season. The Bushrangers escaped with a two-point win against the Geelong Falcons in round four, while the winless Oakleigh Chargers gave them a scare in round five.

Despite this, they had plenty of consistent performers such as Rebecca Webster and Chelsea Knight. Webster starred in defence, and was named as the full back in the 2017 TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year, while Knight has impressed with her magnificent leadership traits.. The Bushrangers were also fortunate enough to have one of their players drafted in AFLW, with Iilish Ross heading off to Collingwood.

Murray’s female talent manager Brianna Cossar said the impact that this has had on the players has been significant.

“It’s certainly given them something to strive for and achieve,” she said. “(They) now believe that anything is possible.”

Ross was able to star alongside captain, Chloe Raines in 2017, and according to Cossar, they will team up again in 2018 but in a coaching capacity.

“Chloe Raines has come on as a development coach, and we’ll also have the likes of Iilish Ross after she’s finished her commitments with Collingwood in the AFLW,” Cossar said. “It’s really exciting for all of us (coaching staff), and the girls as well.”

Raines and Ross will bring plenty of knowledge and expertise to the club, and will be pivotal in helping the Bushrangers achieve its goal for the 2018 season. Cossar said that Murray’s goal is one that follows a path of player development, whereby the players continue to refine their skills each week, and learn to grow as young adults along the way.

“To be honest, it’s great to have the wins on the board and end up on top and play off in the grand final and get a premiership, but we’re all about developing our players – not only as footballers but young adults as well,” she said. “If we can see improvement both on the football field and off the field, then we know we’ve done our job.”

Development comes natural to former basketballer, Olivia Barber, who Cossar said is a player to watch. “She (Olivia) is a national under 16 basketballer, involved with the AIS.

“We’re obviously working with her to accommodate both her football and basketball passions, and we’d like to think we would have her services for maybe half the season,” Cossar said. “But when she first came to training, you would not have known she had not touched a football or hadn’t played much football or anything like that. “I think basketball and football go hand-in-hand with a lot of things. “We’re really excited with Olivia.”

Barber is a bottom-age player this year, and has impressed the Murray coaching staff, along with fellow bottom-agers, Chelsea Hargreaves, Claudia McKimmie, Charlotte Beavan, and Kate Adams. Among the impressive top-age players is Millie Brown, who won the Bushrangers’ best and fairest last year. Brown is a great forward, and is in the AFLW Academy alongside teammate, Rebecca Webster. Expect both of them to be damaging at their respected ends of the ground

But whether the players are bottom-age or top-age, Cossar emphasised that family and school commitments need to be kept in mind when playing elite football.

“We always say ‘family first’, school second,” Cossar said. “We try to make sure they are getting a work-life balance and football is just an opportunity that if they choose to do that, we’re more than happy to have them on board, and just try and develop them. “I think football is a great outlet, I know a lot of the girls have a lot of issues going on, but love coming to football training. “You just see their passion and love for the sport as soon as they get on the ground and train, they’re completely different people.”

The Bushrangers will be liking their chances to produce some solid performances in 2018, after a successful 2017 campaign. But they will need to be switched on right from round one, as they face reigning premiers, the Calder Cannons.

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