COVID-19 clusters, snap border closures and limits on group training might have cast a cloud over the upcoming AFLW season, but the uncertainty won’t faze the Western Bulldogs.
The squad has returned to the training track after the Christmas break, with many footballers setting personal bests in strength and running testing.
Last season’s AFLW Rising Star and All-Australian, Izzy Huntington, said the side might be “on its toes” waiting to hear whether the AFL will announce changes to the 2021 AFLW season, but was handling it well.
“Obviously it’s not ideal having all that uncertainty, particularly with AFLW and most of the women are either working full-time or studying, which presents an extra challenge … but I think considering the circumstances, we’re going really well with it and we’re just getting things done,” the 21-year-old said.
Kayo is your ticket to the best sport streaming Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
On Sunday, the AFL ordered AFLW players undergo COVID-19 testing, and the Dogs will have their tests on Wednesday.
The AFL also ordered training be conducted in smaller groups, of no more than 10, and the Dogs adapted to that at their Tuesday night training session.
“We’re used to it because it’s what we had to do for a large part of the early stages of pre-season, so it’s just going back to the old ways, which I guess might take a little bit of time to get used to, but having that experience under our belts for the first part of the season probably helps make it easier to adapt to,” Huntington said.
“We’ve got a young group, but I feel they’re a mature young group, so there’s no qualms and I think the way everyone’s taken it all on board, the changes to training, and that’s been a real testament to their maturity.”
Huntington played a career-high five games in 2020 as she returned from a series of serious leg injuries that affected her previous two seasons.
Coach Nathan Burke moved Huntington into defence where she flourished, being crowned the Bulldogs’ best and fairest.
But she said not to expect to see her down back in 2021.
“I’m happy to go with whatever the team line-up needs … but where I’ve been training, it looks like I might be spending more time forward,” the 2017 No. 1 draft pick said.
The Dogs will take on St Kilda in their opening game at RSEA Park on January 29, and Huntington said the squad was coming together well.
“One who’s stood out is Jess Fitzgerald, our top pick (from 2020), I’ve been blown away with how she’s handled everything,” Huntington said.
“And Deanna Berry has been in firing form, she’s super fit after lockdown, and is looking really great as well.
“Most of the girls have been hitting PBs in their strength and running testing, so everything’s looking good on that front, which is a really good show considering the challenges we’ve had this year.
“We’re probably fitter than we’ve been in previous seasons at this stage … the group’s looking really good, particularly in terms of match fitness because we’ve been doing a lot of training in match-like conditions.”