History was made as the Dragons go 2-0 for the first time in the club’s girls’ history.
Following an impressive round-one victory against the Devils in Tassie, the test for the Dragons was to knock off reigning premiers Oakleigh to establish their authority in their hunt for finals.
Both teams brought the physicality early, with the Dragons finding some early dominance around the stoppages, courtesy of some neat footwork from Bridie Hipwell (6 inside 50s) and Pia Staltari (2 goals).
The Dragons continued their kicking woes from Round one, unable to capitalise early letting the Chargers punish on turnovers kicking the first two goals of the match.
The Dragons found their first, following some fantastic vision from birthday girl Sofia Hurley (22 disposals, 12 tackles), finding Pia Staltari 30 metres away, who went back to slot the first of the day for the Dragons.
The second quarter brought out a much more composed Dragons outfit, tactically outplaying the Chargers to make space in congested areas, exemplified by Keely Coyne (21 disposals) who created many offensive transition opportunities on the wing.
Some great coordination pressing forward led to Staltari’s second and Zoe Barbakos’ first goal in Dragons colours. Impressive chains of kicking gave the Dragons creative opportunities to overlap the Chargers defence, kicking out to a lead that gave the side ascendency going into halftime, leading by 13 points.
Unfortunately, the summer season produced its toughest conditions and gave both teams a hard time in a humid and drowsy environment. The Dragons faced adversity in the third quarter, finding it hard to maintain the intensity across the ground.
The Chargers capitalised on this, keeping the Dragons from scoring any majors, dominating most of the quarter to rebound the Dragons turnovers and find leads inside their forward 50.
Oakleigh was only able to kick truly once during the third quarter off a turnover inside forward 50 and created an intense and physically demanding finish, refining the margin to nine points going into the fourth quarter.
The willingness to bring back the intensity was passionately stated by head coach Wayne Cripps at three-quarter time and the girls certainly delivered when it mattered, digging deep to win back momentum and change the flow of the game.
The Chargers kicked a goal within the first 30 seconds of the fourth, however, the girls lifted, enabling themselves to regain momentum through some creative ball movement across the wings. The defensive efforts were exemplified from another fantastic outing from Georgia Foran, who finished with a game-high 13 rebound ’50s, enabling the offensive transition to flow against the run of play.
Some individual brilliance from Barbakos and Zielenski gave us the breathing space to hold strong and see out the game,
winners by nine points in a top-of-the-table battle at Trevor Barker Oval.
Post-match, midfield coach Danny Byrne and leadership star Lucy Mitchell touched on the importance of the contests going into the fixture, Byrne highlighting the intent of being “really physical” and “matching them physically”.
Dragons’ coach Wayne Cripps came into the game with a plethora of knowledge on the Chargers, previously assistant coaching at Oakleigh, expressing the opportunities to the girls to expose weaknesses of the Chargers. Mitchell commented on the matter, explaining the approach of the side of “giving them what they’re not expecting”.
The weather took a toll on the girls in the third, however, this reinstated the intentions of this group to fight back the momentum and send a message to the rest of the competition regarding their mental strength. Byrne detailed this struggle and the group’s mentality to recover, “We were dropping like flies, a lot of girls off with cramps, but they kept fighting through it.”
Mitchell also spoke about the importance of the fightback mentality, commending the intent that was “really driven by the girls. We worked our butts off for three quarters and we didn’t want to give up that lead that we worked so hard for. We kept putting our bodies on the line and we got through because we’re mentally tough.”
When asked about going forward, the response was concise and simple from Mitchell, “giving our best each week and lift the expectation and intensity, it’s only up from here”
The Dragons start the season 2-0, first in the metro conference, and look to go 3-0 next Saturday against the Eastern Ranges in Kilsyth.