AFLW clubs try to channel Matildas

Hawthorn AFLW coach Bec Goddard says her side will approach 2023 like a tournament as the short length of the season leaves little room for error.

Goddard says the young Hawks are taking inspiration from the Matildas and coach Tony Gustavsson after being subjected to a harsh reality check by Premiership favorites Melbourne in their last training game before the season.

The former Adelaide Premier League manager said she is drawing on Gustavsson's mantra of testing the team against the best possible opponent ahead of a ten-week season akin to a knockout contest.

Players are calling for the season to be extended to at least 17 rounds to maintain a level playing field and reduce the length of the off-season.

A hamstring injury sustained by Adelaide vice-captain Sarah Allan last week saw her out for two months, meaning the Crows star will miss almost all of the home and away seasons.

Goddard said the Hawks are confident they can avoid injury-related setbacks in their small window of opportunity to make a difference.

“In terms of the 10-round season, it's like a mini world championship – you drop the first few and you're eliminated,” she said.

“We're approaching it almost as if it's some sort of longer finals series and hoping to do everything right, hoping that the soft tissues are okay and all the training loads are right.”

Goddard said there was no “reflection” on last year's season opener at the packed Marvel Stadium, which saw the Hawks open their season again against fellow expansionist Essendon, but this time at Frankston's Kinetic Stadium on Saturday night.

“Long descent from a short pier, is that what you say? “It's taken a really long time, the players have been training for a really long time and we can't wait to get going this weekend,” said Goddard.

“Having our first first-round clash at Marvel was awesome, there's no denying that.

“Women's sport is measured by the number of people who come through the gates. Hopefully we fill the stadium because it's going to be a really great competition and a great opportunity for women to do their best.”

The Round 1 clash could mark a long-awaited Essendon debut for Commonwealth Games ice hockey gold medalist Georgia Nanscawen, who missed all of last season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in the 2022 VFLW grand final with the Bombers.

Essendon manager Natalie Wood declined to reveal whether the 31-year-old will be selected for the season opener but said her preparation for the season has been “fantastic”.

“It's no surprise how many caps she has as a hockey player for Australia. “When you have a young and developing group, it's really important to have players who understand what constitutes elite training behavior,” Wood said.

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