Western Bulldogs AFLW head coach Nathan Burke admits there’ll be a shift in focus among his group heading into season 2021.
Coming off the back of one win in a COVID-affected 2020 season, the second-year coach said his Bulldogs are ready to take the next step in their game.
“Last year was mostly about building confidence in these players and getting them to the stage where they believe they are actually good AFLW players, and can become great AFLW players,” Burke said.
“They’ve all come back this year with that in mind, and every single one of them has an eye on getting in that team come round one, which is great.
“What that has allowed us to do is build in some more technical aspects of how we want to play the game and some more structural aspects that we couldn’t really focus on last year because the confidence wasn’t there.
“Now that the confidence is there, we can actually take our game to another level.”
The Bulldogs welcomed four new players to the Kennel during the draft and trade period, in Jess Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig, Isabelle Pritchard and ex-Magpie Katie Lynch.
And while some have said they’ve been impressive to watch so far, Burke said he is not surprised by their talent.
“To be honest, they’ve probably exceeded expectations. I’m constantly getting staff members and other players coming up to me and saying “are you surprised?”, but my answer is probably no,” Burke laughed.
“That’s why we drafted them, because they’ve got those skills. The good thing is that they are displaying the talent they’ve got out there at training.
“They’ve just been super impressive – not just as footballers but also as people, and have slotted into the group extremely well.”
Off the field, the Bulldogs have also welcomed two new coaches to the panel - Natalie Wood, who will look after the midfield, and Marcus Abney-Hastings, who’ll take the back-line.
“They’ve both been wonderful – the girls are coming up to me saying they are learning so much,” Burke said of his assistant coaches.
“One of my learnings from last year was that I probably needed to step back a bit, and give the line coaches a little bit more of a license to impart their knowledge and skills.
“That was my aim (this season) and to be honest, I think I’m doing it really well, because it’s just so easy with them. I have full faith in what they are saying and what they are teaching, and what they are getting the players to do.
“Most importantly I can see what they are teaching put into the match simulations that we have every training night. They’re making my job really, really easy.”
Bob Murphy will also return in his leadership role for a second season, however skills acquisition coach Andrew Shakespeare has departed for a full-time role elsewhere.