The Sandringham Dragons are back on the winners list after a comprehensive 99-point victory over the Gippsland Power.
After back-to-back losses, the girls came out with a point to prove as they bounced back in spectacular fashion on the road at Gaskin Park.
The first five minutes of the contest was tough as neither side were able to capitalise on their forward 50 entries. The deadlock was broken eight minutes in after the Dragons willed the ball forward, resulting in a Pia Staltari (15 disposals, ten kicks, two goals) goal on the line.
Debutant Lily Parsons, who was brought into the side after terrific form in the Futures, provided dash and dare, often taking the game on to try and give the forwards greater opportunities before Gippsland could set up their defence properly.
Tayla Jones (ten disposals, six tackles, one goal) brought physicality to the midfield all game, spending more time on the inside compared to her role in previous games which was largely used as an outside runner.
She was rewarded shortly after the Dragons’ first goal with a goal herself, hitting the stoppage at speed, gathering possession, and steadying to calmly slot the goal from 20 metres out.
A slick chain of handballs led to first-gamer Emily Gough (15 disposals, eleven handballs, four tackles) finding sharpshooter Mia Zielinski (14 disposals, eleven kicks, three goals) in the pocket, with Zielinski’s checkside goal making in three in a row for the Dragons.
The Dragons ball movement looked much improved, with longer handballs and precision kicking allowing the midfield to open the game up and utilise their run and carry game.
After winning a free kick, Staltari looked inboards into the corridor to find Jenna Witts, who kicked her first goal of the day.
Witts, who’s sister Carly has also looked promising for the Dragons this season, presented well in her first 19s game of the year.
Livewire small forward Zoe Barbakos (14 disposals, 12 kicks, four goals) drew a free kick inside forward 50 and made the most of her chance, with a trademark left foot snap around the corner capping off a brilliant first term for the Dragons girls.
Leading by 31 points at quarter time, the Dragons continued to bring the heat at the contest in the second quarter.
Barbakos was the beneficiary yet again, getting on the receiving end of some nice end-to-end team transition from the defensive 50 to kick her second of the day.
Gough was involved in everything in the second term, providing goal assists for Barbakos and Ella Sciberras (eight disposals, seven tackles, one goal) whilst also kicking a goal of her own.
Her transition into the 19s appeared seamless, standing up in the absence of Rebecca Thompson as another tall target inside 50. Her groundwork was a standout aspect of her game as well, winning 15 disposals and applying four tackles across the course of the day.
Goals from Amelia Luca (eight disposals, two goals) and a second from Zielinski made it a five goal to nothing quarter, putting the Dragons 61 points up at half time.
Zielinski, Barbakos and Sofia Hurley hit the scoreboard inside the first ten minutes of the third term to make it 13 straight majors for the girls from Sandringham.
The form of Hurley has been consistent throughout the entire 2022 season, but she looked as though she went to another level again against the Power.
She had ample time with ball in hand, managed to get forward and impact the scoreboard and had her season-high for disposals, racking up 27 as one of Sandringham’s prime movers through the centre of the ground yet again.
The Power kicked two in a row late in the third quarter to reduce the deficit back to 67 points before Barbakos nailed her fourth major to extend the margin back to 73 points with a quarter to play.
With a large lead at three quarter time, the coaching staff used the fourth quarter to experiment with positions in a bid to discover a player flourishing in a new role.
Spinning the magnets proved an astute move, as the girl’s developed versatility in various positions within the pressures of a game situation.
Charlotte Anderson was composed and aggressive off half back, a new position after spending the most part of the beginning of the season spending time forward and on a wing.
Additionally, Jasmine Shepherd stepped up in defence after some of the tall defenders were ruled out pre-match.
Meg Webster was thrown forward and added a new look to the forward line, whilst Gough went into defence for the final quarter. Staltari also had stints on ball, whilst Keely Coyne (16 disposals, ten tackles, four inside 50s) played deep forward and applied pressure to the Gippsland defence.
Staltari and Luca kicked off proceedings in the fourth quarter, before ruck Ruby Dale took a superb, contested mark and kicked truly for her first goal of the season.
Dale played one of her best games for the season against the Power, working hard to become a target around the ground and putting her body on the line going back with the flight courageously on numerous occasions.
The side’s third debutant for the day, Kera Galaminda, concluded a comprehensive performance from Sandringham, roving expertly to run in to an open goal.
Assistant coach Tilly Arthur was pleased to get back to winning ways and happy that the girls were rewarded after a tough week on the training track.
“The performance was much better than the previous weeks,” said Arthur.
“In the last two weeks we sort of lost our way with our game style a little bit, it was important to go away this week and focus on those fundamentals again and the key pillars of what we are good at. I think we nailed that.
“The ball movement was a lot cleaner through the mids, and so was our distribution and connection going inside 50.”
Arthur was also impressed with the ease at which some of the club’s newest players have assimilated into the side.
“We had a few of the futures girls come up and play really well, which shows just how strong the talent is coming through the ranks.
“[Charlotte] Anderson was really good off half back, she’s played there previously but hasn’t yet this year for us.
“Jasmine Shepherd started the season forward but has since moved down back and done really well too.”
After two straight losses, Arthur spoke about how the win will hopefully instil more confidence in the group heading into a crunch clash against Dandenong next week.
“I think today gave us the confidence we needed and showed what we can really do when we tick all the right boxes.
“Everyone worked together, and it was a real team effort out there today.
“It’s been great to see players develop from pre-season to now and to continue to grow as a team.
“It’s a really rewarding feeling for everyone across all areas of the club when you get wins like this.”
Casting an eye to a massive clash against the undefeated Dandenong Stingrays next week, Arthur hopes the girls can replicate the intent shown against Gippsland.
“It’s important that we keep the intensity we had today, sticking with those basics but making sure we can turn it up a notch.
“We need to bring our grunt against Dandenong because they are quite a strong side.”
It was the first time in Dragons girls’ history that a side has scored more than 100 points in a single game and the biggest winning margin ever recorded by a Sandringham girls’ outfit.
The Dragons will be under Friday night lights at Trevor Barker Oval this week, as they look to hand the Dandenong Stingrays their first loss of the season.