Reflecting on a disappointing 2021 season, Head of Women’s Football Brett Johnson and his team identified three key areas in which the club needed to improve.

The first was list management. The club needed to recruit experienced players to complement our young and developing list.

Secondly, the club needed to find the best coaches available to develop a game plan that suited its players. 

Finally, there was fitness. The club wanted to improve the team’s running capacity.

“There were three main areas of focus in the off season, and it was list management to begin with,” explains Johnson.

“Our aim was to achieve a more balanced list profile. We were fairly young with 14 players under the age of 21.

“We brought nine new players in, which is really exciting.”

The Cats were active during the sign and trade period attracting experienced duo Chloe Scheer and Chantel Emonson from AFLW clubs Adelaide and Melbourne respectively. 

Scheer is one of the game’s up-and-coming stars having spent three seasons at Adelaide where she played in two grand finals. Emonson has also played three seasons, notching up 22 games for Melbourne.

The Club continued its list build adding two mature aged players from its VFLW program, Claudia Gunjaca and Olivia Fuller.

For the first time the list management team looked internationally, signing Gaelic footballer Rachel Kearns from Ireland.

And in the AFLW draft we secured exciting young talent Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell (both from Essendon VFLW), Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons) and Annabel Johnson (Geelong VFLW).

In June the Club appointed Dan Lowther as Head Coach. Lowther has been working with his assistants to establish a more direct and attacking game plan. 

“We’ve appointed a new coaching team and structure and they have a clear mandate,” said Johnson.

“There are some key areas of our game that we need to address and the coaching team is well aware of that. The way we train is going to hopefully help us improve in those areas.”

Finally, a large focus has been applied to the team’s fitness. 

A new strength and conditioning program has been introduced to ensure players have access to expert coaches.

“We felt that in this semi-professional, sort of almost tournament style competition where you play 10 games, fitness is key. 

“We have gone from one to four people in that area and we’ve brought in coaches. We want people who can coach.”

Group Photo - AFLW training 2021 at GMHBA Stadium. Credit Arj Giese.

The Club has appointed two experienced track and field running coaches, Anula Costa and Dom Trimboli. 

Costa is an Olympic level 100m, 200m and 400m coach and Trimboli has previously worked with Hawthorn, Richmond and Collingwood Football Clubs, as well as with Australian men’s and women’s basketball teams.

For strength the Club has appointed two Olympic weightlifting coaches Michael Torriero and Caity Haniver. 

Small forward Dani Higgins who has been at Geelong since the women’s program began in 2017 is loving the changes.

“The new strength and conditioning program has been amazing throughout the pre-pre-season”, said Higgins. 

“I have really enjoyed the running sessions with Anula, they have been stimulating and refreshing.

“I have loved learning new running drills and adapting my running technique. This has allowed me to build strength and utilise the required muscles to optimise power and endurance. 

“The knowledge and expertise that Anula and Dom bring is amazing, as well as the lifting prowess from Michael and Caity. 

“I’m excited to continue to learn from them through this season.”

Pre-season for AFLW Season 6 officially commenced on Thursday 30 September.

Brought to you by Deakin’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Science, the Geelong Cats’ Official High Performance Partner.