Eagles clipped: Low numbers force improvisation at training

WEST Coast was reduced to training with just 12 of a possible 30 players at times during the early stages of the AFLW pre-season.

A perfect storm of short-term injuries and niggles, interstate players quarantining and three players still at home in Ireland reduced the Eagles to such low numbers.

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The situation is now improving, with Victorian Chantella Perera and South Australians Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci released from quarantine.

Chantella Perera has rejoined her Eagles teammates at training after being in quarantine. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Irishwomen Niamh and Grace Kelly have also finished their quarantine stint, while Aisling McCarthy still has some time to go after making the trip over following the conclusion of her Gaelic football season.

Ashton Hill (ACL) was recently placed on the inactive player list, with Peel Thunder defender Demi Liddle taking her spot in the Eagles' squad.

"We were probably missing seven or eight just through quarantine," new coach Daniel Pratt told womens.afl.

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"I think we'll have a full list come the end of December, so we're starting to get pretty close to that now."

The competition-wide training rules under COVID-safe conditions, designed for consistent conditions across states with varying contact rules, added another layer of difficulty.

"We had to have training groups of 10, but when you've only got 14 or 12 on occasions, it makes it difficult, because you can't have a group of 10 and a group of two," Pratt said.

"The lack of flexibility was a bit annoying and probably not realistic. We've had to find our way around that a little bit with thinking outside the box with how we train.

"The main session has been tough, we've been playing six-on-six AFLX style, so it's been a little bit hard.

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"But we've found a way to get some skills into the girls and the ones doing rehab have also been able to do a fair bit of touch work. We should see a fair few coming out in the next week or so."

Pratt spent most of this year in Queensland as an assistant coach with the club's AFL side, before applying to the vacancy in the Eagles' job, keen to coach his own side along with the changes to the AFL soft cap.

Parris Laurie and Alicia Janz have a bit of fun at training. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

He has been an assistant coach at West Coast since 2014 and has also worked in the NAB League and VFL, following his playing retirement from North Melbourne in 2011.

"I watched all their games last year, it was when we were in pre-season and coming up to playing games in the men's program. Luke (Dwyer, former coach) and Adam Selwood (footy manager) have both been involved in the men's program and my desk is 20 metres away from theirs, so we were pretty well connected in that sense," Pratt said.

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"The girls were using our facilities, so you build some relationships because you're in the gym or cardio room at the same time, just ask how they're going, very friendly environment to work in."

In the short-term, Pratt will be a brand new senior coach running a team without a football boss, after Selwood announced he would be stepping away to pursue other opportunities.

“The club took a punt on me when I was drafted in 2002 and have backed me ever since. Eighteen years later I am a father, a much more rounded person and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life,” Selwood said on Tuesday.

Adam Selwood is leaving the Eagles after 18 years at the club. Picture: AFL Photos

“I am immensely proud of what I have been able to achieve and the opportunities the club has provided for me. Perhaps my most satisfying achievement has been over the last four years working on the model to bring our AFLW program to what it is today.

“I will always be their No.1 fan, but for me the time is right to broaden my experiences.”


Areas of improvement

"The strength of the group was their resilience and ability to compete every week. Watching the games live and then watching them back again, I thought the girls really had a crack each week and just couldn't get over the line on a few occasions.

"First year in, we kept things pretty simple with how we defended and attacked. We're exploring a few different options about how we can attack more aggressively and keep the ball in our front half, giving us more opportunities to score."

Pre-season stars

"I've been really impressed with a lot of the girls, particularly those who are now in their second year.

"(Kellie) Gibson, Maddy Collier is training really well at the moment, Bella Lewis who we just drafted, there's probably four or five who have been on the track every session, and they're the ones who have put their hands up so far. Parris Laurie is another."

Maddy Collier has been one of the standouts in pre-season training, according to coach Daniel Pratt. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos