Alan McConnell and draftee Alyce Parker
GREATER Western Sydney coach Alan McConnell’s second season in the AFL Women’s competition will be unrecognisable from his debut year, but he’s already embraced the change.
Last year, McConnell took over a team that had won the previous season’s wooden spoon and even though he’d spent decades working in footy all around the country, the challenge of working with females was a new experience.
The short AFLW season also made McConnell’s transition difficult, while he was still a major part of Leon Cameron’s coaching staff, but he made it work and guided the Giants to within reach of the Grand Final.
Heading into season three of the AFLW competition, the Giants will likely be talked about as finals contenders, especially with a starting midfield of All Australians in Alicia Eva, Courtney Gum, Jess Dal Pos and Erin McKinnon.
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McConnell said the added scrutiny from those outside the club was being matched by those inside it.
“I’d like to think I’m in a better space than I was last year, but I also have higher expectations of the group, and they also have higher expectations of themselves,” he said.
“That is a wonderful thing but can also be a vulnerability.
“We had no idea what we could achieve last year and had a relatively good season.
“Now there is some expectation and if you’re not careful that can shoot you in the foot, rather than be a driver for the group.
“The next stage in our development (as a team) is harder than the previous stage.”
Amanda Farrugia has been the Giants’ skipper for their first two seasons and told AFL.com.au she’s looking forward to seeing what the team can achieve in McConnell’s second year in charge.
“You can tell Al really wants to push us harder this year and he makes no apologies for that, and as a player you expect that,” she said.
“AFLW is a very intense program and you’re expected to reach some significant heights with a very short pre-season.
“He has to fast-track everything. He doesn’t have time to wait for girls to hone a specific skill or drill, it has to be done in three days.
“Now that he’s got a group of 20-odd players that understand his core expectations, he’s setting the bar a lot higher for those girls and hoping the new girls follow along.
“We’re more than willing to do that because we want ultimate success.”
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The Giants added some significant recruits in the off-season with All Australian forward Christina Bernardi crossing from Collingwood to add potency inside 50, and big things are expected from the club’s first draft pick Alyce Parker, a strong-bodied inside midfielder.
McConnell said both players would help strengthen areas he identified as weaknesses in the squad last season.
“We drafted with a clear plan in mind that we wanted to remain a tough team,” he said.
“Last year we went from not being that good in the contested space to being relatively competitive, so we want to sustain and develop that.
“We think we were way off in terms being the most skilful team in the competition, and we needed to increase our leg speed. We think we enhanced those areas through the draft.
“Now it’s about putting that together because you can have great players, but if there’s no cohesion in your team it doesn’t work.”
Source: AFL FOOTBALL NEWS