It’ll be a debutant showdown when the Casey Demons host Essendon in Saturday’s elimination final.
The team named for the weekend is packed to the brim with AFLW talent.
Talented youngsters including Brenna Tarrant, Casey Sherriff, Alyssa Bannan, Shelley Heath and Megan Fitzsimon will be taking to the field in the do-or-die affair.
Meanwhile, experienced heads in Gabby Colvin and former Roo Kate Gillespie-Jones provide that extra spark and levelheadedness.
But it’s not just the AFLW-listed talent that will be having an impact, the players say.
The Inner Sanctum spoke to Eliza West and Ally Kirkwood, who’ve been leading the charge as some of the most improved players of the season.
Kirkwood is well aware of the invaluable finals experience the AFLW players bring.
“It’s great knowing that they come with finals experience,” Kirkwood said.
“We’ve never had finals at Casey VFLW before, so we’ll look to them. We know and trust in each other as a VFL team that we’re really competitive, and we’re ready for this challenge and this opportunity. We’re really excited for it.”
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In addition to the AFLW talent, the additions of a few key figures in the VFLW program have made a world of difference.
New to the side are the Saints’ Meg Macdonald and captain Samantha Johnson, who West says have had huge impacts on the Demons already.
Making the move into the midfield, Macdonald has averaged 13 disposals, two marks and five and a half tackles a game.
Johnson meanwhile, has swung into the backline, picking up 12 disposals and five and a half tackles a game, bringing her AFLW experience week in week out.
Demons leading goalkicker Imogen Milford says that even though the leaders have stood up when needed, it’s been an even contribution across the board.
“We always mention it as a group with the girls and between the coaches,” Milford told The Inner Sanctum.
“The development and improvement from pre-season now has just been crazy. Every individual player has pretty much developed so much.
“Eliza West herself, this is her first year playing footy coming from basketball, and look at her now. It just goes to show that her and many other girls [have] put in the work, and the belief we all have together.
“We’ve all improved heaps, there’s not just one stand-out and everyone plays their role.”
Imogen it ironic?
Milford finished second overall in the VFLW leading goalkicking, behind, strangely enough, another Imogen!
Collingwood’s Imogen Barnett just eked Milford out, kicking 20 goals for the season ahead of Milford’s 19.
“Round 14 we both didn’t score any goals, the week prior she scored three and I scored two, so she just snuck over by one,” Milford laughed.
“I’m not too fussed about the whole winner or loser thing. For anyone, it’s a great recognition for the work that you put in. You get to kick some goals, it’s pretty cool!”
There’s no player that epitomises that improvement mantra more than Milford.
She had previously played VFLW level footy, listed at Richmond in 2019. That was only a short stint, however, played just three games for the Tigers.
There’s two things that have helped Milford to reach her best form at Casey. Consistency, and faith from the coaching group.
“I think it’s the coaches and the club itself,” she explained.
“This year especially, obviously being able to play from round one all the way, I think it was just the consistency and the belief from the coaches. I’d had that at previous clubs, but it kind of lapsed.
“At the club now at Casey with the coaches, it was pretty much the belief and consistently. [Them] having trust and faith in my ability and skill.
“My forward coach and [with] me being a forward, he would take the time out to practice my goalkicking, down from the techniques. Little things like that helped so much.
“I hadn’t had any of that previously. It makes me believe in myself, in a way. The coaches, the club this year especially has contributed to me playing the best I can every week.”
Casey will host Essendon at midday on Saturday at Casey Fields. Watch the game live and free on the VFL’s YouTube channels.
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