WHEN the Bathurst Lady Bushrangers signed up for the pre-season Newtown Breakaways FC AFLX Challenge the goal was to get some fitness and exposure against quality rivals - they got that, but also a whole lot more.
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The Lady Bushrangers showed they have got the hunger for the contest as they advanced all the way to the group 2 grand final, unearthing new talent as they upset more experienced rivals.
While going down 58-10 to Pennant Hills in the decider - their sixth match of the day - the new Lady Bushrangers coaching staff saw the effort as a huge positive.
"It was a really phenomenal day. We thought we'd enter ourselves in the competition and really went there with no expectations, we saw the names of some of the teams there and thought it would be great experience to play against some really quality opposition," co-coach Steve Grundy said.
"But the girls just blew us away, they were awesome.
"It was really good fitness, but to make the final was just amazing."
This season Grundy joins Patrick Fisher and former Lady Bushrangers coach Brian Matheson in guiding the playing group. All three are excited about what lies ahead in the 2022 AFL Central West season.
"Myself and Patty have talked about coaching for a number of years. We chatted about it again at the end of last year and heard that Brains [Matheson] was keen to get back involved again, so it was perfect timing," Grundy said.
"Hopefully between all three of us we can teach them a thing or two.
"It's a new team but it's an exciting team for the club, the vibe around training has just been electric at times and we've had really good numbers at training. We had 24 there last week which is outstanding for this time of year.
"They seem to be gelling pretty well, so we're excited to see what they can do this year."
The AFLX Challenge was the first time the Lady Bushrangers had competed in a pre-season tournament and they relished the chance.
They defeated Western Magic 3-3-21 to 1-3-9 in their first game then backed that up with victory over the UTS Bats, the scoreline in that clash identical to the opener.
In round three the Lady Bushrangers again restricted their rivals, this time Newtown Breakers, to a single major as they won 3-4-22 to 1-3-9.
Though falling to Pennant Hills 3-5-23 to 1-5-11 in round four, the Lady Bushrangers advanced to the semi-finals where they accounted for the Bats.
Pennant Hills was too good in the grand final, but the Lady Bushrangers still toiled throughout.
"We've got the core sort of stalwarts of the team this year, but probably why we went there with no expectations is because we had a lot of new faces, we had three girls making their debut for the club," Grundy said.
"It was hard to single anyone out because they were all really good, but Arielle Madew, they were her first games of football and she just took to it like a duck to water, her second efforts and her pressure were amazing. She's going to be one to watch this year.
"A lot of times early in the season you can be a bit timid on the ball, but geeze they were just so hungry and had a lot of mongrel about them which was impressive."
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