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Groves eyes 2018 with confidence

January 4, 2018 6:00 AM

The 2017 AFLW pre-season has been all about confidence according the Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves. - Western Bulldogs

The 2017 AFLW pre-season has been all about confidence according the Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves.

Confidence.  That’s what the 2017 AFLW pre-season has been about according the Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves.

The Dogs finished sixth last season with just the two wins from seven games, but with a solid percentage of 102.2, no doubt boosted by five goal win in the final round of the season over the Giants.

And as the percentage suggests, Groves says the Dogs weren’t as far off as the win/loss ration perhaps suggests.

“The stats I showed the girls was we were second for average for shots on goal, we were 10.3, I think,’’ he told just before the Christmas break.

“We kicked 31.51, Adelaide had the most shots on goal, and then Melbourne were third.  We were having a shot on goal more than Melbourne, we won 15 out of 28 individual quarters, Melbourne won 16 out of 28 and nearly played in a Grand Final,” he said.

‘’So, a lot of what we did last year was good.  Yes we’ve seen the areas that we need to improve.  Our goal kicking, for one, we’re working on rectifying that.

“It’s really just a skills set that we need to practice and in every session there’s goal kicking happening so we hope that gives the girls a lot of confidence.  A lot of those were ones on the run, we hit the post a number of times… so there are some little factors in there that we can really improve on.”

The Dogs took a strong hand into this year’s draft, taking Izzy Huntington and Monique Conti with their two top ten choices, and both are performing as expected on the track, but it’s the lesser known additions that have buoyed the second year coach.

“It’s girls like Jenna Bruton, who we picked up with Pick 11.  She’s 22-23, she’s an elite kick on her and is just a natural footballer,” he said.

“It’s also probably a few of our rookies and girls that have crossed from other sports.  Ash Utri is a VIS hockey player, played footy years ago, Bonnie Toogood over from netball, Kim Rennie from basketball and all three look like natural footballers as well so that fills you with a lot of confidence that they’ll be able to step up in this environment and just as importantly, put pressure on for spots in our team.”

But Groves said that improvement won’t just come from the new faces; it’s the girls who have now been in the system for twelve months who have also been staking their claim.

“It’s been noticeable the girls that have worked really hard, like Brooke Lochland who won our 2K time trial.  So she’s just seeing what the first year was about and now just wants to achieve and is really striving for greatness.  She’s been impressive.

“Libby Birch has come back and is the ultimate professional in everything she does and keeps ticking along really well.   She just keeps improving, you saw that in her finals series for Darebin, to keep Chloe Malloy scoreless pretty much all the way through and helped set up their Grand Final win.”

And then there’s Katie Brennan, who had a wretched season with a torn ligament in her right ankle hobbling her early before a torn right quad eventually ending her season after just two games.

The 24-year-old is leading the charge on the track so far this summer and will be like a new recruit when she pulls on the boots for Round 1, according to Groves.

“If you look at Champion Data rankings points for the two games she did play, mind you she played the second one against Adelaide, sort hobbled, and was still in the top three on the ground for both games for rankings points.

‘’To miss her out of that team was huge, but that did give others opportunities to step up into roles they not have.  It’s going to be like having a new recruit thrown into the mix.

“We all saw her VFL season once she got fit, she was almost unstoppable.”

The Bulldogs open the NAB AFLW season on Sunday, February 4 at Victoria University Whitten Oval.  Click here for the full fixture and here for details on how to become a member.