Western Bulldogs recruit Richelle Cranston says returning to the red, white and blue has given her a new lease on life and football.
Cranston, 32, arrived at the Kennel as a delisted free agent during the 2021 AFLW Sign and Trade period, after stints at both Melbourne and Geelong.
She also represented the Bulldogs in the earlier women’s football exhibition matches.
“I do love the colours – it was a little bit of a homecoming for me,” Cranston told RSN Breakfast on Thursday morning.
“Obviously the Doggies have quite a young squad – I’m certainly not young anymore – but I guess I bring that leadership in and a little bit of experience, so I’m pretty happy they needed that.”
Rediscovering the fun in football, Cranston praised her new coach, Nathan Burke, for his tutelage.
“I was a big St Kilda fan growing up, so that was a big win for me. I got a bit of a fangirl in when he gave me the call (I would be signed),” she said.
“He’s amazing – he’s sort of more like a father-figure to us.
“He really inspires us girls – I think all the girls love to really work hard because you don’t want to disappoint him.
“I’ve been so impressed with him – he makes it fun, which is so important for women’s footy. I think I play my best footy when I’m having fun, so I’m excited that I might actually play some good footy this year because I’m having a ball.”
Cranston is one of five off-season additions who’ll take to the field in Saturday’s practice match against North Melbourne.
She said the hit-out should provide a good indication of where they rank ahead of their season opener next month, and is excited to see how some of the younger Bulldogs fare.
“It’s obviously going to be really challenging – North are a great outfit, and they have some big names in there,” Cranston said.
“We’ve got a young side, but I think a few of our young players will be able to match some of those big names so I’m looking forward to that.
“I knew there would be growth, but some of the kids coming in now are unbelievable. Even the girls that are one, two years in – to come back and put the work in like Issy Pritchard and Issy Grant who did really well last year, but this year are going to be insane.
“The work they put in is just a credit to how much the girls love it, and how much they want to see (the game) exceed. The kids are coming.”
Saturday’s practice match at VU Whitten Oval will be open to the public, with gates open from midday.
The first bounce will be at 1pm, with quarter-by-quarter updates available via @BulldogsW on Twitter.