Western Bulldogs AFLW coach Nathan Burke says his team have taken great strides in their fitness and skill levels this pre-season, citing a significant improvement when compared to the same time last year.
The Bulldogs held an intraclub match on Sunday, which Burke said was a great indicator of where his side is at with season 2021 around the corner.
“I’m really happy with where they are at, at this stage of the year. They’re all fit, and we’ve hopefully got a full list of 30 (to choose from) fingers crossed and touch wood, but at the moment they are going great,” Burke told westernbulldogs.com.au.
“We’ll start to fold in who we’re playing in round one in the next couple of weeks, but at the moment it’s all about ‘how do we want to move the ball, how do we want the forward line to operate, how hard do we want to be at the footy’ – making sure we get all of that right.
“If you compare back to this time last year, some of the things they are doing with the football and some of their fitness levels have certainly taken a big leap, which is a testament to their hard work.
“I think we are a long way ahead of where we were this time last year.”
Burke also revealed which end of the ground fans can expect to see reigning club champion and 2020 AFLW Rising Star Izzy Huntington at - having spent part of Sunday’s scratch match up forward.
“It depends who wins the fight (for Izzy) – Marcus Abney-Hastings our defensive coach is arguing for her, and Jack Fitzpatrick is our forward coach, so I might just let them go to battle and see who wins,” he laughed.
“Izzy is talented enough to be at both ends. My personal theory is if you have a player that talented, we might as well use her to kick goals rather than stop goals, so that will probably be her starting position.”
A hit-out against Richmond this weekend will be the Bulldogs’ first match-up against AFLW competition, before preparation for their season opener against St Kilda ramps up.
But Burke said the focus will remain mostly on his own side, rather than who they face.
“You can run around and play against your teammates as much as you want, but when you put another team out there, the intensity goes up,” the second-year coach said.
“It’s about our girls being able to step up that level of intensity that we’ve had all pre-season to another level, which will give us a really good pointer to round one which will be another level-up again.
“I think mentally and physically it will be a good test for us, but again this is more about us than it is about playing Richmond.”
The Bulldogs will start their 2021 campaign with a trip to RSEA Park on Friday 29 January against the Saints under lights.