For the vast majority of the Adelaide Crows’ AFLW team tomorrow’s Grand Final is familiar territory.
Easily the most successful club in the competitions four year existence, this weekend they will be striving for their third premiership when the Brisbane Lions come to town for a re-match of the league’s first decider in 2017.
With their Grand Final experience clearly evident for all to see, the Crows will have a handful of players embarking on their first Big Dance, with volleyball crossover Caitlin Gould falling into that category.
Speaking with The Inner Sanctum, Gould describe the feeling of being in her first AFLW Grand Final.
“It is a pretty unreal feeling,” Gould said.
“There is a wide mix of experience within our group when it comes to Grand Finals, so all the girls are just super excited and hoping we can get the win.
“We know Brisbane are a really competitive side, they have been good all year, so we are definitely going to have a tight contest on our hands.”
This will not be the first time these two sides have faced off this season, with the Crows claiming a hard-fought 12 point victory away from home.
Gould says that performance and the win against Melbourne last weekend gives the team a lot of confidence heading into the decider.
“It was a really hot day that one up in Queensland,” she said.
“Playing the way we did that day and getting the win was fantastic, but we know that they keep grinding towards the end, so coming into the game this weekend consistency is going to be crucial as we learnt that day the Lions do not go away.
“With Melbourne last week, we knew that they are a really contested and gritty side which is very similar to the way Brisbane play, so we take a lot of confidence that our game plan stands up against that particular style of team.”
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Like many professional female footballers, Gould’s journey to the AFLW begins with playing another high level sport as she represented South Australia in both volleyball and beach volleyball.
She describes her experience in crossing over sports.
“I played a lot of state indoor and beach volleyball for pretty much my entire life,” she said.
“I obviously love the sport having grown up with it and every thing like that, but it was my friend that actually suggested that maybe I should try Football for a bit of a change,
“As soon as I got out there for my first training sessions I fell in love with the game, it was all about trying something new and challenging myself in a different sport and I am very happy with how it all turned out.”
She says that some of the key skills from volleyball have helped in her football journey, especially when it comes to the art of ruck work.
“In my position as a ruck, things like jumping are a key skill of Volleyball that has definitely helped with my transition,” she said.
“In volleyball I had a natural left foot so that helped me a lot in Football because it gives my leap a bit more power and that point of difference in the ruck.”
One thing she did struggle with however was self expectation, as the pressure she placed on herself as a result of her junior sporting success weighed heavily as she tried to adapt to a new sport.
“I obviously have a lot of expectation on myself to be the best and try and do my best for the team, which means I do compare myself a lot to everybody else,” she said.
“That definitely made it a little bit harder as I obviously don’t have as much experience, so I think that has been a bit of a struggle especially in my first AFLW season.
“I had a lot of confidence issues through that time as I constantly found myself comparing my game to others even though I was the least experienced person there.”
Now in her second season of AFLW, Gould says she is happy with her progression and improvement with her impact on games becoming greater and greater.
“This year has been really good for me working with the likes of Tom Lynch and the coaches who have really pushed me to not focus as much on my weaknesses but more trying to enhance my strengths,” she said.
“I remember watching the AFLW Grand Final in 2019, having just started my first season with Glenelg, and thinking there is no way in hell I can get to that level, I thought the skills were insane.
“Where I have come from my first season to now, I hope to say I have improved on certain skills and I think a big thing for me is game knowledge which I feel I have gotten a lot more confident in this year.”
With the game’s biggest day now just 24 hours away, she will be looking to utilise that increased confidence and rely on the experience of some of her fellow teammates.
“There are a few in our team that have played in Grand Finals which I think is really good, because it gives me a great sounding board heading into the game,” she said.
“I am just going to focus on my role and what I will do best for the team to succeed and I know the girls will support me greatly throughout the day.”
Whatever the result she just hopes the team can put in a performance that will make themselves and the supporters proud.
“We are more than happy to be coming back to Adelaide Oval for the Grand Final,” she said.
“At the end of the day we just want to make our members and supporters proud, the opportunity to play in a Grand Final doesn’t come around all the time so we are just looking forward to getting out there and putting in a good performance.
“We have put a tremendous amount of work into this season and we are very keen to put it on show.”