AFLW clubs try to channel Matildas

Hawthorn AFLW coach Bec Goddard says her side will approach 2023 like it’s a tournament as the short season length leaves little room for error.

Goddard says the fledgling Hawks are looking to the Matildas and coach Tony Gustavsson for inspiration after being dealt a harsh reality check by premiership favourites Melbourne in their final practice match before the season.

The former Adelaide premiership coach said she was borrowing from Gustavsson’s mantra of testing the team against the best possible opposition before a 10-week season which resembles a knockout competition.

It comes as players call for the season to be lengthened to at least 17 rounds to ensure fixture equality and reduce the size of the off-season.

A hamstring injury at training to Adelaide vice-captain Sarah Allan last week ruled her out for two months, which will see the Crows star miss almost the entire home and away season.

Goddard said the Hawks were hopeful they could avoid injury setbacks in their small window to make an impact.

“In terms of the 10-round season, it’s like a mini World Cup – you drop the first couple, and you’re going to be out,” she said.

“We approach it almost like it’s a sort of longer finals series, and hope to get everything right, hope to get the soft tissues right and all of the training loads right.”

Goddard said there was no “looking backwards” at last year’s season opener at a packed Marvel Stadium, with the Hawks to again open their season against fellow expansion side Essendon, but this time at Frankston’s Kinetic Stadium on Saturday night.

“Long run off a short pier, is that what they say? It has been a really long wait, the players have been training a really long time, and we can’t wait to kick off this weekend,” Goddard said.

“It was great to have our round 1 inaugural clash at Marvel, there’s no denying that.

“Women’s sport is measured by the metric of people coming through the gates, hopefully we fill that stadium because it’s going to be a really great contest and great opportunity to see women doing their best.”

The round 1 clash could mean a long awaited Essendon debut for Commonwealth Games hockey gold medallist Georgia Nanscawen, who missed all of last season after suffering an ACL injury in the 2022 VFLW grand final playing for the Bombers.

Essendon coach Natalie Wood would not reveal whether the 31-year-old would be selected for the season opener, but said her pre-season had been “fantastic”.

“It’s no surprise, the amount of caps she had playing hockey for Australia. Having players that come in who understand what elite training behaviours are, are really powerful when you’ve got a young and evolving group,” Wood said.

Originally published as ‘Long run off a short pier’: AFLW teams pray for good health in short season

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