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VFLW in full swing

Having returned to training from their Christmas break just over two weeks ago, Essendon’s inaugural VFL Women’s side is moving ever closer to making all the gruelling summer sweat of pre-season pay off come the season proper in May.

Coach Brendan Major has lauded both the commitment of his charges and the support they have received from the club as the major factors behind the team’s day-by-day development.

“They’re going really well,” says Major of his side, 90% of whom have improved on their pre-Christmas individual testing times.

“Half our list is signed up and ready to go … there’s a good mix of AFL and VFL experience; you’ve got Jess Trend and Lisa Williams going really well with the experience they bring and Simone Nalder and Beth Kearney fighting for the ruck spot.

“We’ve got a great high-performance team led by [Head of Strength and Conditioning] Emily Bland, so she’s got them moving quite well.”

With just under three months remaining until their history-making Round 1 clash with Hawthorn on May 6, twenty players have officially been made Bombers. Fifteen positions on the senior playing list, including five TAC Cup girls, will be filled in the coming weeks.

Bringing a squad together from scratch presents any number of not insignificant challenges. Major has identified the establishment of a strong team culture as a crucial foundation for his team.

“The first thing you’ve got to do is set standards. We like to have standards and guidelines, not rules. It’s an important distinction to have. It’s a standard of behaviour and it’s a standard of training, not a rule about training and a rule about behaviour because the playing group are really binding.”

Essendon’s first hit-out will be a practice match against foundation VFL Women’s side Melbourne Uni on March 31, with the venue still to be confirmed. As one of eight clubs fielding an AFL-aligned team in VFL Women’s for the first time in 2018, Major says he and his players are burning with a determination to make a name for themselves.

“We’re trying to uphold the values that the Essendon Football Club has instilled in the men’s program over the last hundred years and we’re trying to make sure that we’re playing to the brand.”