Football stars set to shine

Football stars set to shine

The seventh AFLW season is here and a couple of the South East’s best are ready and waiting to defend the Adelaide Crows’ premiership in what shapes up to be the most competitive fight ever.

For the first time in the sport’s history all 18 AFL clubs will be represented by men and women at the top level and the Crows are the hunted, having won more AFLW premierships than any other.

All eyes will be on the tricolors as they look to repeat the success of four months ago and the flag defence will kick off tomorrow night with a huge grand final rematch against Melbourne at Glenelg.

The season-opening game could have a huge Limestone Coast flavour with former Millicent player turned star defender Sarah Allan and ex East Gambier Bulldog Brooke Tonon running out for the Crows.

Adelaide faces a Melbourne team which has just listed young, hard-working Millicent Saint Ella Little as part of their squad, while another Limestone Coast player Olivia Fuller hopes to continue the ruck duties at Geelong.

Still on a high from premiership success in April, Allan is looking forward to reigniting the rivalry with the Demons, but believes Adelaide cannot take anything for granted despite the unforgettable 13-point win at Adelaide Oval.

“We celebrated the premiership and it was great, but our focus is now on this season,” she said.

“It is a new season that brings new challenges, so we have to start fresh and leave last season where it is.

“There are a lot of unknowns every year in the AFLW, but it is always a hard contest against Melbourne.”

The biggest talking point around the reigning premiers is how will they fare without superstar Erin Phillips leading from the front following her switch to Port Adelaide to follow in her famous father’s footsteps.

But with the likes of Chelsea Randall, Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard and herself still remaining, vice-captain Allan is confident the Crows are as strong as ever.

“We have always been fortunate enough to have lots of depth on our list and there is some more talent coming through,” she said.

“It is really exciting to see some of those players get more opportunities and every team is looking competitive which is great because you want to play your best against the best.”

Since making her debut in 2017 as a 20-year-old Allan has established herself as one of the best backliners in the country.

The 51-game veteran has played in all three of the Crows’ premierships and is an All Australian regular and these feats have been rewarded with the vice-captaincy role.

Allan said there was no secret to her success as she solely focuses on executing her role within the team week in, week out.

“I just try to keep things simple and play my role.

“Every year I focus on improving individually and I hope to continue to develop my aerial marking skills to take my game to another level and help the team get better.”

“Premierships are why we play footy so we are still working towards that as a team,” she said.

Having only been at West Lakes for 12 months Tonon is simply taking steps to break into the star-studded Adelaide 18 and add to her career tally of three games.

“My goals are to keep improving as a player and as a person at this level,” she said.

“More specifically my goal at the moment is to improve my body

work, I would like to become a lot stronger and am working hard towards this.

“The expectations I have on myself are to continue to work hard on the track and put my best foot forward for the team.

“There are many good challenges that we face – like team selection for example – because we have such great depth because everyone has proven their case.

“We are so excited to get out there and have another crack.”

Having overcome the mental hurdles of her first game and season earlier this year, Tonon said she felt like a different player compared to the raw “Chook” that was drafted last year.

“I have learnt a lot over the past season and have definitely become stronger mentally,” she said.

“Apart from the obvious lessons in skill development and knowledge, one of the most important things you learn at an elite level is hard work is super important.

“The drive to keep wanting to improve and putting in that hard work to get better is essential when at the elite level.

“I am excited to see how I keep progressing in the future, the Crows has been fantastic in not only physical development but mental development as well.”

Both premiership Crows have not forgotten their roots and said they still hear the cheers from the Limestone Coast at each game.

“The Mount will always be special to me and I love coming home and getting around the local footy,” Tonon said.

“It is amazing to see how women’s footy is progressing down there and I cannot wait to see how it continues to grow in the future.

“I always feel so supported in my journey and will always be grateful of how everyone believed in me. I will never forget how it started.”

“I am pretty lucky to come from a community that always supported me and continues to support community football,” Allan said.

“I always feel very well supported from everyone back home.”

With the men’s Toyota AFL Premiership season taking a week’s break ahead of finals, the football world will be glued on the opening round of the new AFLW season which begins tonight.

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