Future at the forefront as Tasmania record historic NAB League win

The first ever winning score for the Tasmania Devils in the NAB League Girls. Photo: Tasmania Devils

You never forget your first win.

For the Tasmania Devils NAB League Girls side, its first has been a long time coming.

Fielding its first ever under 19s girls team at the beginning of the inevitably cancelled 2020 season, it’s been a 336 day wait for the young talents to sing their song for the first time.

While NAB League teams are constantly turning over players as they are either drafted or age out, the Devils list is still made up of half of the inaugural squad who ran out twice in 2020.

Defeating the Gippsland Power by 62 points in a dominant performance away from home at the Highgate Recreation Reserve, the post-game celebrations were well-earned.

The Inner Sanctum spoke to Devils coach Cameron Joyce after the historical win on the weekend.

“It’s been a great reward for effort for the girls,” he said.

“Playing the two games last year and doing the last few pre seasons, to get a win it gives them some confidence going into this next game against the Western Jets, and hopefully it gives them a bit of belief in terms of what we’re trying to do.”

While the score-line stands out for a side who was on the end of back-to-back 102 and 57 point demolitions, there was a lot more to like.

The Devils won both the disposal and tackle counts, while also generating 21 scores from 26 inside 50 entries.

Joyce believes the remarkable team performance is entirely up to the hard work put in over the pre-season.

“The week before, we played a scratch match, and we had a pretty heavy focus on our midfield to forward connection, and even our forward 50 stoppages,” he said.

“We went to work on that, and the girls have been just outstanding on what we’ve been able to throw at them, they’ve been able to take it on board and want to get better and improve.

“We certainly went from one end to the other in terms of our work inside 50, but credit to the girls that they were able to be really efficient when we got it in.”

Stand-out performer and tall forward Amy Prokopiec drew high praise from her coach, and was named in the Draft Central Team of the Week for her four goal haul as the centre piece of the Devils forward structure.

“She’s certainly got some talent, she’s a great kick of the footy and when she gets a shot on goal, she rarely misses,” Joyce said.

“I thought they were all terrific.

“Claire (Ransom) really got us going, as one of our five midfielders we run through the inside midfield at the moment. Her start to the game, and how she structures up her midfield as an under-17, was terrific.

“Amy Bissett played in our All-Star game and kicked three in September last year. I thought, ‘oh jeez, she’s going to be right amongst it’.

“She’s had a bit of an interrupted preparation leading into the season with a couple of injury niggles, but over the last couple of weeks she’s really shot up and she’s really engaged at the moment. She’s getting the rewards off the back of that.

“She’s got some really good speed, took four bounces and kicked a goal on the weekend which was probably the play of the day.”

While the forward line impressed, inside midfielders Perri King and Aprille Cooks laid 11 and 10 tackles respectively to add some grunt to the team from the centre bounce, with King also responsible for four of the team’s efficient inside 50 entries.

“One of our strengths is our midfield,” Joyce said.

“King and Cooks had 21 tackles between them, Ella Maurer had 10 clearances. The other inside midfielder in Jemma Webster, they were all really consistent, they’re all contributing, which makes our midfield able to produce with whoever’s in there at one time.”

While the Devils were dominant on Saturday, Joyce isn’t planning on allowing the players to get ahead of themselves, firmly aware each and every player has got more development ahead of them if they hope to find their way onto an AFLW list in 2021.

“We’ve got a lot of improvement left in us,” he said.

“We’ve been heavy on our skill development, from our marking to our kicking to our clean hands below our knees, all that basic work that makes a massive difference in games if we can just complete a few more plays.

“If we can chain the ball and complete a few more plays, I think that’s going to really help us.

“Getting around the density rules, and making sure we’re setting up in the right spots and making early decisions, is going to be important as the season goes on.

“We’ve got heaps of improvement left in us, but I was certainly impressed with the start.”

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