The Sandringham Dragons have suffered a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Northern Knights, falling short by just five points in a tense battle at RSEA Park.
The Knights kicked the first three majors of the game and had total control of the match, until a second quarter fightback from the Dragons set the game up for a tight second half.
Assistant coach Danny Byrne lamented the sides work rate early in the contest but was pleased with how the girls fought back.
“Hopefully there’s better work rate both ways this week, our attention to detail defensively wasn’t where it needed to be. As a result, they were often first to the ball and when we got there, we were under severe pressure and didn’t get the opportunity to play our brand of footy,” said Byrne.
“I want to see our work rate match out talent. There are some ridiculously talented girls in our side.
“The speed in which we were able to fight back was pleasing. Halfway through the second quarter we’d been completely outplayed but by half time scores were level and we were back in the game. The girls can turn a game really quickly.”
Georgia Foran was at her brilliant best in her final match in Dragons colours, racking up 19 disposals and seven rebound 50s, whilst Cam Millias (19 disposals) continues to be a consistent performer through the midfield.
Defender Shaedyn Aylen was sensational in defence, accumulating a team-high 23 touches.
“Aylen’s been really good all year. I feel like she’s getting a heap of intercept possessions and it’s often down to her incredible pressure. She’s really hard to play against and super physical.”
Byrne was also delighted with the performance of Emily Gough (15 disposals) on the wing, a position that is relatively new to the East Malvern Knights product.
“She brings a lot to the role, especially her ability to go forward. She’s so good overhead, but a real quality user of the ball as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing her develop in that role.”
Ruck Sophie Crofts continues to take major strides in her development, with her contested marking and work rate on show against the Knights.
“Sophie Crofts is really developing as a forward/ruck. She’s a really good, contested mark and is positioning herself really well. She’s getting into good spots and taking strong pack marks in ordinary conditions.”
Crofts, who plays local footy for Beaumaris, had 12 touches, four marks, four tackles and 12 hitouts.
The addition of Mia Zielinski gave the forward line a significant boost as the key forward booted two majors in a “classy” return from a long injury layoff.
“She’s a contested marking machine. You can put the ball somewhere in her area and she’ll go and get it. She straightens us up a little bit, draws the footy and she finishes her work.”
Zielinski had already booted 15 goals from ten matches for the Dragons across the past two seasons and took out the club’s leading goalkicker award in 2022.
“She’s ridiculously talented and it’s brilliant having her back, hopefully we can get her fully firing in the second half of the year.”
Keep an eye on what the Vic Metro talent can produce as the season progresses.
Debutant Sophie McKay was a key figure in willing the Dragons back into the contest against the Knights.
The Prahran junior had eleven disposals and team-highs in tackles (six) and inside 50s (four), splitting her time between half-forward and the midfield.
But the stats sheet doesn’t paint the picture of the sheer impact on the game that McKay had.
“She’s brilliant around the contest and works really hard to explode out of the contest. She uses the ball well, gets to the right spots, she’s going to be an absolute star.”
Sophie is the sister of former Dragon and current Carlton AFLW star Abbie McKay and is the daughter of 244-game Blue Andrew.
“She’s the sort of player that can take a game away from the opposition. She can take total control of the contest, she’s a pretty special talent.”