Whodunit? Saints play murder mystery game at unique pre-season camp

ST KILDA players had one main focus at their recent AFLW pre-season camp: Whodunit?

The Saints took a slightly different approach to the traditional lung-busting, physical camp; running an overarching theme of "how to host a murder" in an attempt to bring together a brand-new side. 

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"The girls all had to walk in character, we split them into backs, forwards and mids and we did activities to work out who murdered who by the end of the weekend," St Kilda coach Peta Searle told womens.afl

"It's a hard one for a new group coming together. I don't really believe pushing them to their limits and breaking them is the best thing to do straight away. 

"We should build them up, establish a good foundation, and we are pretty confident throughout our pre-season they'll be pushed pretty hard in the running components they need to do." 

(L-R) Saints players Georgia Patrikios, Emma Mackie, Kate McCarthy and coach Peta Searle. Picture: AFL Photos

With 12 players between the age of 18 and 21, the unorthodox approach of playing characters allowed a few of the younger girls to come out of their shells. 

"We had Isabella Shannon, the young 18-year-old and a bit of a fan of Cat Stevens, she played the guitar, the little ukulele. It really gave the younger ones the opportunity to be involved," Searle said.

They certainly took it, they were pretty social by the end of it, as girls can be. That's what girls are, so you have to make it a strength of the team.

Peta Searle

This year saw the introduction of a two-week induction period for AFLW clubs, allowing for team meetings, physical testing and information sessions before pre-season training began on November 25, but Searle wasn't a fan. 

"They're keen to work hard. To be honest, the two weeks leading into it was too long. I think it created more anxiety, because they wanted to get going and we had to hold them back," she said.

"They were pretty ready to go in the first week. A few of them have been in the system before and they know what's ahead, and there's not a lot of time to get prepared, so they're pretty ready to go for what's ahead of them." 

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The Saints signed eight players directly from their VFLW affiliate Southern Saints, with an additional four returning from other AFLW clubs after previously playing with the side. 

"It's a step up, but they've all shown something where we can think they can contribute to our team going forward," Searle said. 

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Peta Searle on some of the elevated VFLW players: 

Clara Fitzpatrick: "Her intercept marking and athletic ability is pretty impressive, she's quite tall and strong, so she'll certainly play a role." 

Kelly O'Neill: "A tall winger. In women's footy it can be hard to connect in terms of moving the ball from one end to the other. She played an important role on the wing for us last year, but we may also slide her behind the ball." 

Sammie Johnson: "Her body work is some of the best I've seen in any AFLW player. Her inside body work is amazing, but she might go back and take care of a Jaimee Lambert-type." 

Olivia Vesely: "A young kid who we were playing in the midfield. I believe in a couple of years' time, she'll be a superstar." 

Olivia Vesely in action for the Southern Saints. Picture: AFL Photos

Caitlin Greiser: "A key forward who can kick the ball 50m off one step, the fans will love her. I think she's potentially got the attributes to be one of the best forwards of the comp."