After nearly 11 months off the football field, the Calder Cannons were back in action on Saturday in the NAB League girls competition.
The side played just three games last year before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19, meaning there’s plenty of players eager to get back out on the field.
Speaking before the game, coach Ross Smith said everyone was excited to play again.
“I’m sure it’s exciting for the whole competition,” he said.
“Everyone had gone through a whole lot. We had the jumper presentation and got their families down which was pretty special.”
For Smith, who has coached the club’s boys’ side since 2018, coaching the girls’ side is a new challenge.
Under changes to the NAB League system, there is one senior coach across both programs.
“It’s my first time coaching girls,” Smith said.
“I’m enjoying it immensely and they’re just a great bunch of girls. They’re very grateful and it’s a lot different to the boys in many ways and also a lot of fun.
“It’s a very exciting group, especially the 18-year-old group.”
Smith said when the boys started training in the next couple of weeks, it would be quite busy for the coaching panel.
He said the girls team was a young squad, with the competition age expanded to under-19s.
There’s three top age players in the squad, with a core group of 18-year-olds and several bottom age players.
He said they were eight bottom age players set to play in the opening round.
Newly appointed captain Georgie Prespakis will be one player who is set to get plenty of attention.
The younger sister of Carlton star Maddy Prespakis, Georgie won the NAB League’s best and fairest award in 2019 as a 16-year-old.
She is eligible to be drafted later this year.
“She has been training really well,” Smith said.
“There’s a little bit of expectation on her. She’s a different player from Maddy and she’ll have her own career going forward.
“The players voted her in as captain.”
Smith said they were pretty excited about the rest of the group of 18-year-olds.
Peppa Poultney will play in the ruck and Tahlia Gillard, who is in the AFL academy with Prespakis and is another tall, are both players to watch.
Olivia Manfre, state cricketer Neve Crowley, exciting midfielder-forward Emeila Yassir, Mali McLeod and Kasey Lennox are others in that age group.
Smith said the focus of the group remained development. He said many of the older girls would get an opportunity to play at VFLW level with Essendon during the year.
“The focus is always development,” he said.
“We’ve got a reasonably good 18-year-old group and the expectations are reasonably strong.”
The Cannons started the season with a win against the Sandringham Dragons on Sunday.
A four goal to nil third quarter proved the difference with the Cannons winning, 6.4 (40)-3.6 (24).
The Northern Knights and Western Jets suffered first round losses to Oakleigh Chargers and Eastern Ranges respectively.