It was always going to be a long and windy road for a club in its second year, but Daniel Pratt takes that in his stride.
The Eagles’ AFLW team have just come off the back of their biggest win to date, but it wasn’t an easy path to get there.
The girls, and Pratt, pushed harder than ever to gain results in the lead-up to the Cats clash including copping a ‘spray’ from the coach at Thursday’s training session, according to captain Emma Swanson.
“We were pretty honest on where we were at during the week, the girls reflected well and were able to get it done on the day,” Pratt said.
“Playing teams that are around us probably gives us a better opportunity to measure where we’re at.”
The team will now head into a clash against Richmond at the Swinburne Centre, with both sides coming off considerable wins.
While the Eagles’ youthful squad will put all their effort into heading another victory, they’ll also be determined to put in a four-quarter performance.
“These two teams are ahead of us on the ladder at the moment and are probably going to be real challenges for us.” Pratt said.
“Richmond are in really good form, they’ve been playing really well the last few weeks, and they have some really dangerous players."
With Captain Emma Swanson our for two weeks, Pratt will look for consistency from Aisling McCarthy, who took home 19 disposals and three tackles in Monday’s match-up.
He’ll also be expecting fellow Irish players Niamh and Grace Kelly to bring the heat, after the sisters combined for 30 disposals and four goals against Geelong.
“McCarthy has been really consistent all year and has probably been our best player, the way that those girls (the Irishwomen) go about it, they just play with such freedom, it’s entertaining to watch even when it is risky for a coach.
“I’m rapt with how they’re going and as a footy club we’re rapt to have them.
“Those girls will keep playing well and I think when we develop some of our future talent that will be the icing on the cake.”
Pratt will also be hoping to feed the ball into Imahra Cameron, who sealed the deal three times in the space of six minutes on Monday, to become West Coast’s first multiple goal scorer in a game.
“Her game sense and goal sense is something hard to come by in the competition at the moment, particularly for teams who find it difficult to score,” Pratt said.
“Keeping her around goals is important, but I know she’s keen to go into midfield. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we can get her up and around the footy a bit more.”
Kellie Gibson will also be another Eagle to watch, after a season-high 14 disposal game against the Cats.
Gibson has been steadily improving each week particularly after her move from the forward line.
“We played her as a tall forward at the start of the season because we needed the height. But when we got Janzy (Alicia Janz) back we decided to play her (Gibson) in midfield, and we’ll probably play her there for the rest of the season.” Pratt said.
“She’s been working really hard on her craft. It’s just pleasing she got some reward for effort.
“Really pleased with her contest and her work around the stoppages.”
This being said, Pratt will have some tough decisions to make this weekend, with more players up for selection.
“We had four girls play this week (in the WAFLW) which is unheard of throughout this year, so we’ve been lucky to even have an emergency most weeks.” Pratt laughed.
“But Katelyn Pope was one of the best for ‘Subi’ (Subiaco) and we had (Sophie) McDonald and (Kate) Orme play for Claremont, and play quite well, as did (Beatrice) Bea Devlyn for Subi.
“So there’s some selection options now, which has been difficult to make changes when there’s nobody available, and now there’s pressure for spots off a win.
“But I feel like we’re in a better place now.”
This win has understandably been a long time coming for the Eagles, but Pratt has a well-measured plan for the youthful side.
“We started that planning the first day back in January.” Pratt recalls.
“Obviously, Adam Selwood did a great job with Luke Dwyer to set the program up, and that changed in the New Year, we started planning for what the next two or three years look like and how we can get in a position to challenge the top teams.
“The foundation clubs are the top five, six, teams at the moment, it’s really difficult with all the expansion teams to really compete against them.
“Planning has been in place for a while now so obviously looking forward to the future and what that looks like.”