It wasn’t the ending the West Coast Eagles AFLW team were hoping for, but coach Daniel Pratt believes there is still plenty to take away from the season.
The side averaged 204 disposals per game across the season as well as 3.6 goals, a promising increase from the 174.7 and 1.8 the year prior.
West Coast’s undermanned midfield clearly affected the final match of the season, and ruck Parris Laurie going down with an ankle injury in the warm-up created another headache for the coaches.
While she did play – mainly in the forward line - it was another big blow to the side that was already missing captain Emma Swanson, reigning club champion Dana Hooker and playmaker Aisling McCarthy.
The injury cloud loomed over the entire match with Chantella Perera, Kellie Gibson, Ashlee Atkins and Melissa Caulfield all sidelined for segments of the game.
“Today was really frustrating and a disappointing way to finish the year, but I think as a whole, the year in my eyes has been a success,” Pratt said.
“Losing our best four starters in the centre bounce, (they) were all out today.
“I think the growth of the girls and their learning of football has really improved, but today we probably got to the tipping point of where our talent’s at.
“It was a great opportunity for a few of our girls to learn, (Mikayla) Bowen got to play inside midfield, (Bella) Lewis got to play inside the whole game, (Kellie) Gibson, got Niamh (Kelly) in there, (Imahra) Cameron.
“So we got all these players in positions they’ll play in the future, so from that point of view, that’s a positive for us.”
St. Kilda was too strong on the day, with high intensity and pressure in the 32 degree heat.
But while the understrength Eagles were outclassed, they continue to develop in this early stage of the competition.
The younger members of the squad, as well as the more experienced, only furthering their knowledge with every game.
“You look at the top teams, some of them have got A and B-graders all across the ground, so our challenge is to keep developing the players that are on our list and search and see what we can bring in in the next few weeks or months,” Pratt explained.
“We’re a development team, so we just need to keep working through those things, and those opportunities were good for the girls that they got.
“That’s been the challenge for all of the teams who come into the competition later, is to try and break down opposition backlines who have got experienced players.
“St. Kilda really well-structured behind the ball, they have supported their backline with some structure and how they work together, but I thought their organisation really took our opportunities to score away.
“In saying that, the speed we’ve had in the forward line this year has given us some opportunity to score, the Kelly sisters in particular, Imahra, have been so good for us. It’s been great watching those girls grow this year.”
The focus for the youthful squad will now be further development surrounding football knowledge and understanding, as well as fundamentals such as skills under pressure.
“We’ve been planning what the next 12 months is going to look like for a while now, so we’re going to work really hard in the off-season," Pratt said.
“When we do get it right, we look dangerous, when we don’t we’re really vulnerable, so we’ll work hard on that, every team says it, so it’s just if we can execute now.”
The West Coast Eagles AFLW club champion awards night will be held on Monday April 12 at Crown Perth.
Click here Club Champion Awards to purchase tickets to the event as we crown our club champion.