Key defender Lauren Spark has a lot to look forward to this season.
For the first time in her four years at the club, the veteran Bulldog has been named in the AFLW leadership group, and can’t wait to get stuck into her new on-field responsibilities.
“Being a leadership group member is something I’ve been working on for a long time – the whole time I’ve been here really,” Spark said.
“I’ve been acting and behaving like a leader for a while now, so to get the reward and recognition is nice.”
The 34-year-old joins Ellie Blackburn as captain, Brooke Lochland as vice-captain, Izzy Huntington, Kirsty Lamb and Hannah Scott in the six-player leadership group.
“We’ve got a great group of girls too; Ellie has obviously been doing it for a while now, but she’s more than capable of doing it on her own as the sole captain,” Spark said.
“It’s awesome for Brooke as well, to a) be named in the leadership group and b) also be named as vice-captain.”
Since arriving at the Kennel with pick no. 76 in the 2016 draft, Spark has brought an element of fun to the group through her iconic ‘Sparky Selfie’; a team selfie uploaded to social media typically after a win.
And that joyfulness is something she wants to continue to bring as a leader.
“I think having fun is super important – the reason we started playing a team sport is not only having people around you, but the fun we can have,” Spark said.
“The biggest thing for me is the relationships you can build, and I think that’s also what eventually makes a great team – those relationships you can form.”
The Bulldogs welcomed 11 recruits during the off-season, and Spark can’t wait to see them make their red, white and blue debuts.
“I’ve said it before, but some of these girls are coming into the AFL environment now having played more games in their junior lifetime than I probably ever will in my whole career,” she said.
“They’ve been able to follow the junior pathways right through under-18s and now open-age women, have had numerous coaches and more time with ball in hand than I ever will, so to have these girls come out and show me a thing or two – it’s exciting.”
She admitted the Bulldogs’ fast, hard-running game-style is something fans can also expect to see week-in, week-out.
“We’re quite a short, fast team and that’s something we’ve been working on in the off-season, along with our fitness and ball movement,” Spark said.
“We started off slowly in Saturday’s practice match against Geelong, but by the third and fourth quarters (our game-plan) had really kicked in.
“It’s definitely a quick running style from a lot of the girls – but probably not from me!”
The AFLW Bulldogs will have this weekend off, before travelling to RSEA Park on Sunday, February 9 to take on St Kilda in Round 1.