The Sydney Swans will face Adelaide in a Semi Final clash on Saturday night. Hear from AFLW coach Scott Gowans and players Bella Smith and Sofia Hurley ahead of the clash.
SYDNEY SWANS AFLW COACH, SCOTT GOWANS
On our challenge coming up against Adelaide:
It’s a big challenge, but we’re super excited and can’t wait to get over there and take on one of the competitions best. That’s how you want to bench mark yourself and see where you’re actually at.
They’re the best at grabbing momentum and squashing you like a bug. You have to be able to get that back when that happens, and that will happen at times during the game where we will feel like we’re under massive pressure. We just have to back ourselves and our mechanisms to turn momentum around. We need to train that this week, put the foot down and stop that. Momentum advantage is one of their weapons.
On maintaining our momentum:
We speak about it all the time internally, and say that winning is fun. We’re having fun at the moment. It’s not like it’s a chore, we’re actually doing a fun thing. We are just taking the momentum and seeing where we can go with it. The girls have freshened up really well and trained really well this week, we’re looking forward to it.
On the potential to play in a Grand Final:
I haven’t thought that far ahead, although it’s only a couple of weeks ahead. Our full concentration is on Adelaide, step by step. Should we get through this week, we’re a couple of steps away from a great opportunity. Apart from that, we’re really focused on what we have to do against a really quality side.
Why it’s important to embrace the challenge:
In pre-season we put down a timeline, it included the average age that you live to, the average length of your career, and the amount of opportunities you’ll get which is somewhere around six to ten if you’re very lucky. Most players will get one to two opportunities. When you get them, you have to do the best you can and that’s what we focus on. We’re always striving for continual success. It’s looking forward to what we want to build as a unit, as a club.
What has been our key to success this year:
The connection of the group. It’s more the off-field that has created the on-field. A few of the players live together and it’s those bonds that you form and the ability to learn together and talk footy and have the downtime together. It’s undervalued and I think it’s a big advantage that we have here.
From a coaching group it’s the same, you’re almost forced in a way to have your friends at the club and connections at the club and that really fast tracks your learning and development.
It’s a two-way thing, I enjoy all their personalities. A few of them don’t even bother asking to come to dinner they just turn up and walk in, we put extra food on, they bring food around some of them – most of them don’t but some do! It’s very much one big family. A lot of them are living away from home, so I hope they see Jodi (Scott's wife) and I as a place they can come around and just have a meal and just enjoy watching TV.
Paris McCarthy makes a mean crumble, and she brings it around and I think it’s more just to hang out and sit on the couch and pat the dog more than anything. She’s the one that comes around the most.
On taking advice from John Longmire:
We sat and had a chat for 10 minutes, it was interesting hearing his take on the game, and it was all built off the back of pressure. What we said in the team meeting yesterday was reflective of how he saw the game so that was quite a nice little double check of what you’re doing. The actual pressure, and bloods football that we talk about, that goes right through the club – whether you’re in commercial, men’s footy or women’s footy. If you’ve got a role at this club, you’ve got to play your role and you’ve got to do it really well and that’s the expectation everywhere. I think that’s where the proudest part of it has come from. I feel all the staff that we have, who have been amazing under me, have just allowed me to coach, and that’s the big difference I think.
On Chloe Molloy:
I did say she was the best female footballer I’ve ever seen, although there’s a couple coming through. The first game I saw Chloe play, she was a 17-year-old and playing against women in the VFLW and kicked six goals. I thought to myself "wow, she’s pretty good." But then she repeated it against Darebin, who were undefeated for about three years at the time. She is just a moments player. If she ever does get 30 possessions look out, because it’ll be a really big game. It’s not the goals she kicks, but it’s the score involvements that she does and that’s the part of the game that I love about her. She’s one of those players that brings other players in, because she wants to win so badly. She has a very high footy IQ, and she’s just a ripping person. We’re very lucky to have her.
On bringing Molloy to the club:
My only worry was whether she’d like Sydney as a city, and live here long term. But she loves it here, she sees it as home which is really great. That again comes back to the connection piece where she has made great friends within the team, they hang out together and that has taken some of that moving away from home out of the equation.
On our supporters connection with AFLW team:
Our supporters are amazing, and I know every coach will say that but they really are. Family and friends will come to all the games, they will travel. The players will do a lot as well, they will go over and spend time with them. When we travel to Melbourne we make sure we give the players extra time to spend with family and friends and it’s a really big piece of the puzzle to have them come on the journey with us.
SOFIA HURLEY & BELLA SMITH
Smith, on returning to Norwood:
BS: It’s a little bit of a 360 having played my SANFL years there. It played a big part of my footy career. To come back there, in front of my family is exciting but that’s not why we’re going back there, we’re there to win a game. As good as it is, there is a bigger focus at hand.
Smith, on her footy journey:
BS: We can’t talk highly enough about our team connection. It is such a genuine connection between the group. I suppose transferring over from Collingwood, I feel this sense of value which I think in turn helps me play my best footy. Feeling like I’m playing my role for the team just makes me want to do better and I think the same goes for the rest of the group.
Hurley, on how she pulled up after finishing with 16 tackles in the Swans win over Gold Coast:
SH: I’m great. I’m just so excited for what’s to come, this is such a great opportunity for us. People probably think it’s a bit of luck but I reckon we’ve worked so hard for this so I’m really keen for what’s coming.
On defensive pressure:
SH: We have great coaches, in Nick Davis, Tanya Hetherington, and Colin O'Riordan who are all ex-AFL and AFLW players and they know so much about the game. We can’t underestimate how much they have helped us with every aspect. Team defence in particular Colin has been immense with. Something we really value as a team is the effort that doesn’t require skills, and that’s something that we have really brought into this year. Everyone’s intent, the tackles we lay, it’s just effort upon effort.
On the team momentum:
BS: There’s this unwavering belief within the group that we could do anything. Four on the trot. We hadn’t won two in a row before now, so to have those four games under our belt, we’ve just got this belief and going back to that theme of ‘Why not us?’ because there’s no reason why we can’t. We’ve proved we can take it to the best, we’re in the top 8 for a reason, and we’re in the top 6, so why not.
SH: The fan support has also been incredible. I know Scotty touched on that every coach will say that the fans are amazing. The fans are just awesome, the families are awesome, travelling all around Australia to come and support us. I met some people on the weekend who drove five hours from Port Macquarie just to come and watch our game which was amazing. It’s been really exciting. The boys who came as well, the support from the entire program has been so incredible.
BS: I guess being in a non-AFL state, it has been surprising. I suppose when you’re in Melbourne everywhere you look there’s an AFL ground where as here you’re really searching. To have the support we have received, especially out at Henson has been insane.
On the challenge against the Crows:
BS: They’ve obviously been a really successful team for a long time, but I suppose we go back to our footy at the moment and how we’re playing. We said it’s a great opportunity, if it comes off our way awesome, but if not we still have gotten the opportunity to play against the best. They’re minor premiers for a reason.
On why the Swans are clicking this year:
SH: It’s helped having some strong recruits come in, but everyone else who has stepped up – like Brenna Tarrant has played amazing this season, Ella Heads, Ally Morphett obviously before her injury. There are so many players who have stepped up. It’s been so great to have the added experience that lets those girls shine even more.
On Scott’s perspective on seizing opportunities:
BS: I think we latched on to that. You can get content, you put your colours on, you’re training in these awesome facilities and you can be like ‘yep I’ve made it.’ We’ve realised that that isn’t enough to be the best. Whatever opportunities we get, we’re going to take them, because like he (Scott) said, there isn’t many in our short playing career.