This article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of EAGLE EYE.
West Coast’s inaugural AFLW season might have come to an early end and only featured one win, but Emma Swanson believes the club has laid the foundations for a bright future in the competition.
The Eagles’ first AFLW captain said the team was under no illusions about how challenging its maiden campaign might be.
They knew wins would be hard to come by, but both the players and staff were determined to set elite training standards, learn from their mistakes and foster a positive culture that would set the club up to pursue its long term goal of achieving sustained success.
“To create that culture and lay the foundations for something that is sustainable for the years to come was so important,” Swanson said.
“I think we can walk away from this year knowing that we have done that, albeit the results on the scoreboard didn’t quite go our way throughout the year.
“There are things that we’ve got to get better at and there are things that we’ve got to train moving forward.
“But I think from a culture piece, we had massive ticks in those areas.”
Swanson knew that West Coast had compiled a special group of players – and more importantly people – to be the custodians of building that culture from a very early stage.
She said the 30-player squad formed a strong bond that was like nothing she had experienced during her football journey to date.
“The girls were fantastic and we bonded pretty quickly and really organically,” she said.
“It was a really unique group and the bond was really special. It was something that I have never been part of before. Just the way that we all clicked together given we came from different local clubs, different backgrounds, different amounts of AFLW football.
“It was fantastic; I loved every second of it. They are a fantastic group of girls. I hope we continue to build on that bond in the coming years.”
West Coast’s maiden campaign could be broken down into a seemingly endless series of landmark moments, but Swanson said the club’s round one encounter with Collingwood and historic first win against the Western Bulldogs sat atop her long list favourite memories.
“The lead into round one was a personal highlight of mine. The whole week was really special,” she said.
“The vibe and the energy in the changerooms was unreal. There were 10 girls playing their first ever game of AFLW; it was really special.
“There were a few nerves, but also just a lot of love for the game and that’s something that we prided ourselves on.
“And to come out in that first quarter and really take it to the Pies really topped it off. We didn’t win the game, but I think there were a lot of little wins that came out of that.
"I think after losing three games at the start of the season we did start to get challenged a little bit. Moving into that round four game we did speak about it a little bit, particularly the leadership group, of how to keep the group up and about. Obviously we did something right because we came out in round four and to get that first win against the Doggies was just a combined feeling of excitement and relief.
“There were a few memories of that game that we are all going to take with us. For me personally the fact that we got off to a really quick start and we got the first goal on the board was good. Hayley Bullas’ back heel through the goals and then Grace Kelly running into an open goal. I think we were all sort of standing her watching her saying ‘Don’t bounce it, don’t bounce it, just kick it’. And then to see her little goal celebration afterwards was pretty special.
“That last 45 seconds probably wasn’t the most enjoyable 45 seconds of my football career. It was quite stressful, being four or five points up and the Doggies having the ball was a bit tough. But when that siren went it was great.
“We were all embracing each other and I was actually in tears; I was that emotional. It was just such a great afternoon and then to sing the team song for the first time and then sing it back in the rooms again with everyone – with the players who didn’t play and the staff as well – was really special.”