This Saturday’s season opener against Fremantle will put West Coast’s pre-season learnings to the test, according to AFLW senior coach Michael Prior.
Despite knocking down the Dockers on their home turf a fortnight ago in a practice match, Prior understands a round one victory – and four premiership points – will be much more difficult to obtain against the 2021 finalists.
“It’s really pleasing that we’re able to play against quality opposition, things that we’d been working on across the pre-season really came into fruition in that game,” Prior said.
“But it’s a pre-season game. Both clubs made a lot of changes at half time so we don’t take too much out of it.
“We know what we’re coming up against this Saturday and it’s going to be completely different, winning is a habit, so is losing.
“We’re under no illusions where we’re at, we’re still a developing club, we want to get to the top as quick as we can, and we’ve got an opportunity to do that on Saturday night.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
With full availability ahead of the RAC Derby, as well as returning senior players in vice-captain Dana Hooker and key forward Andrea Gilmore, the selection committee will have a difficult task ahead of the list announcement on Friday afternoon.
West Coast will also be naming a number of debutants, after the inclusion of five draftees (Charlie Thomas, Courtney Rowley, Beth Schilling, Sarah Lakay, Emily Bennett) and two recruits (Aimee Schmidt, Evie Gooch) over the sign-and-trade period.
“It’s been really pleasing, we’ve got some really good work into the girls where our availability is really strong, hopefully we can continue that,” Prior said.
“We absolutely are (expecting debutants) but we haven’t told them yet, so we need to keep that under our hat.
“It’s really exciting for those girls to get that opportunity, and they’ll get told Thursday night and for them and their families it will be a fantastic time in their life.”
Vice-captain Dana Hooker is also eagerly awaiting her return to field after missing round two onwards due to a toe laceration last season.
Now spending time across half-back, Hooker explains West Coast’s added midfield depth has allowed her to adjust to the backline and play in the centre when needed.
“This little adjustment probably started well over a year ago and when Daniel Pratt came in he looked at giving me a bit of a role off half-back,” Hooker said.
“Michael’s come in as our head coach and he’s a former backline coach as well, and he liked the idea of me playing a little bit off back as well.
“He’s been really level for us, he brings a good energy, I like the trust and energy he puts into the game plan and trusts us that we’re going to execute what he’s coaching.
“Our list every year gets stronger and stronger and we’re excited by the talent that we’ve brought in.
“Charlie Thomas and Courtney Rowley… Bella Lewis, Mikayla Bowen. We feel like we’ve got some really good depth in our side.
“It’s an exciting time, and obviously Fremantle are a really quality opposition. We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing them and bringing our best football.”