Festival of footy for Stingrays Girls

on 23 March 2021
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It was a week of footy that resembled 2020 AFL ‘hub life’ for the Dandenong Stingrays girls side, as the group churned out three matches of NAB League football in just seven days.

The first was a trip across the Bass Strait, to take on the Tassie Devils last Saturday.

It wasn’t a great start to the frantic week for the girls, going down to the Devils, 6.3 (39) to 3.4 (22).

The Rays stormed home late with two majors in the final term, but it wasn’t enough to trim the 24-point last change margin.

Georgia Malkoun, Amber Clarke and Charlotte Blair were among the Dandenong players to hit the scoreboard, while Charley Ryan was judged best afield – continuing her great start to the 2021 season.

Just four days later, the Stingrays had its second game for the year under lights, this time at Casey Fields, in a make-up Round 2 clash against the Sandringham Dragons.

After a scrappy opening quarter where neither side could convert, the Rays burst clear in the second and third term, adding two majors in both periods respectively, while holding the Dragons goalless for three-quarters of football.

The Rays ultimately held the Sandringham side goalless for the entirety of the match, and came away with an emphatic 5.7 (37) to 0.3 (3) victory – snapping a two game losing streak.

With realistically just two and a half days between the victory over the Dragons and the Rays next and final match of the week against Bendigo, maintaining the momentum was going to be crucial.

Snapping the trend of recent weeks, the girls got off to a flying start – kicking remarkably in front of goal to keep the half-time deficit to just eight points. 

Despite a strong first half in front of goal, it was the virtuoso performance from each and every Stingray in the premiership term, adding three majors and holding the Pioneers to a singular minor score.

Notwithstanding a late scare, the Rays collected the four points in a nail-biting finish, 5.6 (36) to 4.11 (35). 

Mackenzie Eardly slotted two majors, as did Amber Clarke. The pair proving there is still a place in the game for neat goal-kicking in a match-winning display. 

With her two goals, Amber Clarke has moved to first place in the league leading goal kicker table with 10 majors.

Despite a hyperactive week of footy for the Stingrays side, head coach Nick Cox says the girls have physically pulled up tremendously.

“We rested some in the mid-week and a few again on Saturday, it is obviously something we have never done before so it is a real blue print moving forward,” he said.

“It was good that our girls got through, we got a couple wins out of the three games and in the other we got a valuable lesson in Tassie against some stronger opposition.

“It has been a pleasing week,” Cox said.

Three games in seven weeks doesn’t leave much time for the coaching staff to analyse the matches and assist the girls in development, but Cox says the girls bought in and are eager to improve each and every game.

“We did a Zoom call for selection on the Thursday so the girls weren’t out again,” he said.

“The Saturday after the Tassie game we spent a bit of time together and it was really beneficial for us to do some education and learning after the loss.

“Obviously we didn’t do much training, but the message is really simple with the girls at the moment: If we are competing and trying to play the way we want to play, we are going to get the win.

“That is really important in development as well, but if we aren’t following instructions and go away from what we know well, we’re going to struggle – and we did on Saturday.

“But the girls are wanting to get to the highest level, so beating your opponent, having your moments is really important,” Cox said.

After suffering its first loss of the season in its clash against Oakleigh under lights, Cox believes his side took learnings out that defeat and improved on its skills in slippery conditions at various stages during the week.

“I think we were a little bit more used to the conditions (on Wednesday under lights at Casey),” he said.

“Having a game the week before and then in wet conditions in Tassie, that helped us as well.

“We just adjusted a lot better on Wednesday night then we did the week before, we got off to a really good start.”

The Rays currently sit in fourth on the NAB League ladder and will take on the Murray Bushrangers next Sunday, earning an eight day break after a chaotic week of footy.


By Tyler Lewis