AN amazing family of sisters.
That is how Bathurst Giants coach Liz Kennedy described her playing group after Saturday’s Central West AFL women’s grand final. From the tears in her eyes and tone of her voice you could see she truly meant it as well.
While Kennedy and her players were not celebrating a premiership flag at full-time, Dubbo taking that honour, season 2018 was still a remarkable one for the Giants.
From scrambling to gather players – most of them who had never even held a Sherrin let alone played Australian rules before – to coming within two kicks of a premiership flag was a huge effort.
The netballer who turned into a full forward who booted 20 majors for the season. The soccer goalkeeper converted into a talented defender. The basketballer who rucked hard.
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It was easy to see why Kennedy was so proud.
“I am so proud of them all, what we have been through together this year as a team can only be described as an emotional roller-coaster,” she said.
“We started out as individuals wanting to play AFL, but finished the year as a team which played in the grand final. An amazing family of sisters.”
With the help of her husband Mark, the Bathurst Giants’ senior men’s coach, and Mick Sloane, Kennedy moulded a team who constantly surprised themselves.
“There are no words to thank him [Sloane] for the patience he has shown to me and my ladies. We tried very hard to understand what he was telling us and somehow we must have listened because we made a grand final,” Kennedy said.
Though conceding experience to many of their rivals and other outfits were more skilful, the Giants showed plenty of fight and heart. They learned and they improved.
The Dubbo team who had beaten them by 71 points at the end of August – restricting them to just a single behind – had to fight hard to win Saturday’s grand final.
The tackling pressure was intense throughout – there were some huge hits – and even the off-the-ball shepherds were impressive.
The Demons actually trailed at half-time and three-quarter-time before getting over the line to win their maiden premiership. It was one they deserved and Kennedy acknowledged it.
“Dubbo has been one of the benchmark teams since the inception of women’s AFL in the Central West. We never imagined in our first year we would be playing against them,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also had one last message for her players.
“Never surrender. Stand tall. Girls play footy. Stick together. Get around it,” she said.
“An amazing group of women... one that is an absolute pleasure to coach.”