'Helped mould the culture': Experienced recruits prove to be Tiger tonic

RICHMOND hit the Trade Period hard after a winless first AFLW season, and the four additions to the list have made a big impact in a short space of time.

Harriet Cordner (formerly Melbourne), Sarah Hosking (Carlton), Sarah D'Arcy and Sarah Dargan (both Collingwood) have added some much-needed steel to the developing Tiger line-up.

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Defender Cordner, midfielder Hosking and forward D'Arcy have played in the AFLW since the competition's beginnings in 2017, with Dargan drafted by the Pies at the end of that year. 

"They've helped to mould the culture a little bit, just shift a little bit into understanding how to work hard, how to set standards, how to train at a professional level, creating that group who understand how it is to be elite," coach Ryan Ferguson told womens.afl.

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"We're still learning and working on it, but those recruits have really come in and had an effect on shifting the balance a little bit. They've given some assistance for our other leaders and our younger players to learn off and build some momentum for our group.

"The girls we've brought in are great characters too, they're strong leaders but they're really good, solid characters."

Former Demon Harriet Cordner brings much-needed experience to Richmond's backline. Picture: AFL Photos

Richmond parted ways with inaugural AFLW coach Tom Hunter in June, and replacement and former AFL assistant Ryan Ferguson wasn't appointed until November.

"I probably timed it pretty well, I think my first Monday was the start of the real pre-season (compared to the voluntary 'pre-pre-season'). So it wasn't too odd, just had to get cracking pretty quick. Which was fine, I like working that way.

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"[Assistant coaches] Lauren (Tesoriero) and 'Chappy' (Nathan Chapman) had put in a lot of hours of work and the girls had put in a lot of effort into their fitness and skills already.

"They'd learned from last year and were working towards what they wanted to achieve this year before I started, it helped me actually to jump into that time.

"Without going into great detail, we've addressed what we can take out of last year and how we can make it work for us, continuing to strive for greater standards, trying to improve every single session and make our next one our best one."

Coach Ryan Ferguson watches over training at Punt Road. Picture: AFL Photos

The Tigers slumped to a 39-point loss to fellow expansion team St Kilda in their final game of 2020, scoring a record-low three points, and Ferguson believes the next step for the team is developing game understanding and situational awareness.

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"Trying to do what's right in the situation, think for themselves and problem solve. But also, just making sure there's a real role clarity and simplicity in the way that we want to play, so they understand what they need to do out there and feel like they can back their instincts," he said.

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"From a coach's point of view, it's trying to get that balance between learning, growth and understanding, but also simplicity and allowing them to back their instincts and give us their best without having to think too much.

"It can be tough for players who are effectively coming in after hours, you don't want to overload them too much. There's now a wide range of football pathways and how much they've been exposed to, so you need to be aware of that and cater to it."

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Ferguson previously worked in a development role with Richmond's AFL side, so he has plenty of transferrable skills in building a football program still in its infancy.

"It's perfect. [Development] is what the job is, really," he said.

"We hope the fundamentals and the development and all the time and effort we've put in will lay that foundation to then perform in the competition phase."