GEELONG, the lowest scoring team in the 2019 NAB AFLW season, is taking a renewed focus on connection into the new year.
The Cats averaged just 22 points per game in the home-and-away portion of their first AFLW season, but had the second-stingiest defence behind premiers Adelaide, conceding 35 points.
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"We're not too bad once we get the ball inside 50, but it's actually getting it in there. We're really excited to have (former North Melbourne player) Scott Thompson down and working with that part of the team," coach Paul Hood told womens.afl.
"You can see Adelaide, Fremantle, Carlton and North Melbourne were able to do, they moved the ball really boldly at times and kicked big scores and really threatened the opposition. It's really exciting for the game and we want to be one of those teams.
"Cohesion's probably the word, understanding what your teammates can do and moving with the great confidence that they're going to do those things.
"We've seen our club do great things at VFLW level over the past three seasons, it's just the confidence to do that at AFLW level. Have a go at it, if it doesn't work, clean it up and have another go."
Geelong has lost its number one ruck Erin Hoare to overseas study commitments, leaving the lean Rene Caris (20 years old) and veteran Aasta O'Connor – the 32-year-old coming off surgery on her troublesome knee – to shoulder the majority of the load.
Caris (pictured) played just two AFLW games in her first season, but managed 11 in the VFLW season over winter, averaging 19 hitouts.
"Rene had some really good games in the VFLW, and she had to do a lot of games there by herself, which was terrific development. She was well supported by (key forward) Kate Darby as well, who's growing that part of her game, too," Hood said.
"I imagine Aasta's experience and Rene's athleticism will be a really good combination. Those two already work well together and I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes."
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All Australian full-back and Cats best and fairest Meg McDonald has fully recovered from the operation she had on a stress fracture in her foot, having played with the injury in the final three games of the season.
Skipper Melissa Hickey is still a little way back, having had a clean-out on her knee, while 2018 No.1 NAB AFLW Draft pick Nina Morrison – who tore her ACL after a best-on-ground performance in round one – is doing non-contact work with the main group.
"Meg's actually been doing everything for a few months now. In her rehabilitation program, she was probably touch and go to play in the last few games of the VFLW season, but it was easier to just give her a steady ramp," Hood said.
"She's running well and pushing people around in training. It's good to see now that it's her teammates she's pushing around and not her coaches."
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The club's pre-season camp was held over a weekend in the seaside town of Anglesea, with a greater focus on building connections, rather than a boot camp-style physical affair.
"In all the excitement and enthusiasm in bringing a list together for AFLW last year, so much was done on game plans that we didn't pay as much attention to the social aspect as we probably should have," Hood said.
"It was something the players said they wanted to do. We had a great weekend together with some quality training as well, but the rest of the camp, which saw the players talking about how they can support each other, was really, really positive.
"We don't really have talent competitions or the like, because (key defender and musician) Bec Goring wins all of those, so it was mostly chatting. For a first-year player, Millie Brown was outstanding in the way she was prepared to talk about the way she thinks, it was fantastic.
"A lot of the players really opened up. Richelle Cranston was great with the things she said. Another one who's taken a big step in that area is Jordan Ivey. Jordy led the VFLW team really well as one of the co-captains, she's really grown with her ability to pass on what she's thinking about the game and draw out feelings from other players, too."