Written by Jarryd Barca
The Calder Cannons Under 18 Girls are eager to take the field this Sunday ahead of what will be their biggest challenge of the season so far, according to head coach Paul Tilley.
Calder is one of three undefeated teams in 2019 and is looking to stretch its winning run to four weeks when it hosts the Oakleigh Charges at Highgate Recreation Reserve.
“Oakleigh will be our biggest challenge so far this year,” Tilley said.
“They move the ball pretty well, they have a pretty good game plan, they switch the ball, they run the ball.
“They have a couple of good solid players who move surprisingly quick and kick some really good goals so it’ll be interesting to see how we actually stack up against them, it’ll be a good challenge.
“They drew with Northern and Northern I thought were probably, and I still think they will be, finals contenders easily.”
The girls only won two matches last year in Tilley’s first season at the helm, who believes going back to the basics is the catalyst for the side’s rise in fortunes.
The Cannons averaged 24.2 points per game last season compared to this year’s 49.3, albeit just the three matches have been played.
“The first couple of games that we played (last year) we got beaten rather comprehensively and so we actually looked at it and thought ‘you know what? We’re probably not as good as we thought’,” Tilley explained.
“We just went back and started teaching a little bit more about the game itself and we started really concentrating on skills. So much so that I think we played Geelong who were eventual premiers and we only got beaten by a few goals against them and it was only one quarter that let us down.
“If we had have played them earlier they probably would have beaten us comprehensively, and we won the last two games, so we’ve taken that same philosophy into this year, teach the girls about the game.
“A lot of girls who come to us, they’re the best from where they come from, but they all tend to play on the ball for their local clubs.
“When they come here they don’t know how to play back, they might not know how to play forward, so it was a bit of an eye opener for me teaching the young girls how to play football.”
Asked whether the internal mood amongst the players has changed since last season after winning three from three, Tilley said the confidence levels in his players are always soaring.
“I think what they’re seeing is what we’ve asked them to do is working so that does give them a little bit more confidence to try stuff out during the game,” he said.
“We ask them to do certain things and they are trying it because they know it can work and so I expect that that will continue to increase as well.”
The Cannons couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year and sit rather comfortably in second position on the ladder, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, trailing their opponents multiple times in the first three weeks.
“We actually need to make the most of our opportunities, we probably have the ball inside 50 just as much as the opposition but we just don’t put it through the goals,” Tilley said.
“I think last week against Sandringham, and nothing against Sandringham – they’re a young side and all that – but we were off the boil in the first half and I can’t really put my finger on it, but you just know when a side isn’t there collectively, and basically after half time it clicked.
“Maybe it was because the girls had to wake up early to go to Sandringham! I don’t know, but it’s not that Sandringham played more exceptional football but we played quite poorly.
“After half time we started sticking to the game plan and we started doing what we know we can do and eventually we ran over the top of them.”
Tilley expects to see much of the same from his side on Sunday, urging the players for a better start to the contest.
“If you look at the first game, we weren’t leading at quarter time but I think we were something like one goal seven before we started putting goals through,” he said.
“We really need to make the most of our goal kicking. Some of the girls who I think are rushing probably have a little bit more time to take those shots, some of the choices that they actually make could probably be a little bit better as well.”
Be there at Highgate Recreation Reserve from 1:45pm to help steer the girls to their fourth consecutive victory of the season. J