16/04/2024

Courtney Wakefield lays a tackle in the Round 2 loss against Adelaide. (Photo: AFL)

Richmond AFLW coach Ryan Ferguson is hoping to see greater forward connection out of his group in this week’s match against Hawthorn.

The Tigers have been on the losing end of two tight margin, in games which they could have very easily sealed had their conversion on goal been stronger.

They have recorded a combined 63 inside 50s for just five goals across the matches against Geelong and Adelaide, and will need to turn that around on Sunday to claim their first win of season seven.

Round 1 saw them kick a dismal 1.5, while they managed 4.3 in Round 2, losing chances to build an early lead in the first.

Ferguson was strong on affirming that he believes his side is now past ‘honourable losses’, and should be making the jump into being finals contenders.

“[The Adelaide game] was another step in the right direction,” the coach told media on Thursday.

“We’ve been competitive with teams for long patches and not been able to play it in four quarters and being beaten in patches… [giving] up three or four goals in a row.

“To actually control the three quarters, we’d like to get the result. That’s another step on our journey.

“We take a lot of confidence out of that step and controlling the game against a really good team, control territory and really put pressure on them. The next step is to make that forward connection and improve.

“We’ve still got a long way to go with it, but [we’re] working for each other instead of individually and having multiple options and diversity in attack.”

Veteran key forward Courtney Wakefield has been a shining light in attack, providing a marking option without injured skipper Katie Brennan.

She kicked two goals against the Crows, along with laying five tackles.

Wakefield will likely be particularly important in this match-up, having had a day out against the Hawks in their pre-season practice game, kicking five goals.

But Ferguson is also looking to the rest of the forward line to lift around her.

“[Wakefield] straightens us up and gives us a genuine marking target,” he said.

“If she doesn’t mark it, she generally brings it to ground. She’s got areas of her game she’s continuing to work on, that’s another reason why we love her.

“She’s our highest pressure player as a key forward, she laid five tackles. It’s a great weapon of hers and shows what’s she about.

“It’s probably a challenge for our small forwards… that’s part of your role, you need to up the stakes with your pressure too.”

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It’s been a disappointing start for the Tigers results-wise, after showing plenty of promise in the pre-season.

The new recruits have been solid without being extraordinary, aside from draftee Eilish Sheerin, who leads the league for intercepts after Round 2. Grace Egan has also added an extra contested presence to the midfield, averaging 9.5 contested possessions and 4.5 tackles.

Forward of the ball especially, the Tigers were the highest-scoring team of the two practice games, demolishing the Dockers and the Hawks.

Ferguson believes the group should take confidence out of the last time they met the Hawks, but that it shouldn’t tell the whole story.

“Practice games are more about our team… and less about the other teams,” he said.

“You never know quite where they’re at with their prep and who they’re playing, those sorts of things. We certainly got a look at the brand of footy that the Hawks wanted to play.

“Combine that with the last couple of weeks, and we get some good information. After that it reverts back to us… and the focus we put on our game.”

Hawthorn has had its own challenges to start life in the AFLW, winless and on the bottom of the ladder with a dismal 31.9 percentage.

Losing leaders and AFLW experience in Louise Stephenson and Tamara Luke to season-ending knee injuries only exacerbates the struggles.

But blooding fresh faces in Isabelle Porter, Bridie Hipwell, and Ainslie Kemp, the excitement is sure to be tangible in the opposition.

Regardless of that, the Tigers want to be the ones walking away with their first four points of the season, with a favourable schedule ahead.

“[The group] is hungry,” Ferguson said.

“They’re very keen to one, get across the line, and two, continue what we’re trying to do.

“There’s so many positives out of what we’ve been doing, but not the fulfilment of the result we’ve been after. They’re very, very hungry, I would say.”

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