BREAKING into the big league, talented footballers Kelly O’Neill and Sophie Bolding have spent much of this footy season training with the Southern Saints – St Kilda’s Women’s VFLW team.
The two girls, who share the load driving to training twice a week in Moorabbin and are currently coaching the Bass Coast Breakers, say they have been impressed by the elite standard at the Southern Saints.
“The club has a players’ lounge, recovery pool, a gym… the attitude of players and coaches makes it a really professional environment,” says Sophie.
“Rubbing shoulders with the pros is inspiring, many of these girls will be playing AFLW next year.”
With intense training, gym schedule and games, the girls say they also have to pay attention to their diets.
“Nutrition is a big focus, we have pre-game meals, recovery foods, a team dietician, wellness diaries, we even weigh in before games and weigh out after to make sure we stay hydrated,” says Kelly.
Sophie played a handful of games last season for the Saints and Kelly has played the past four rounds, including a trip to the Northern Territory to play against the NT Thunder.
“It was a tough match, coming from the cool weather in Victoria to play in the 34-degree humid heat… [it] was a challenge,” Kelly recalls.
“We had a lot of opportunities but weren’t able to make the most of them in the first half. I think it was the NT Thunder’s fitness and comfort in the humidity that won them the game.”
Kelly has been named in the best for the Southern Saints twice this season and is hoping that she will be drafted for their AFLW team – which is set to commence in 2020.
“After winning the flag with the Breakers I just want to keep pushing myself to see what can happen,” she said.
“I’m not counting on a call-up, but hopefully I can keep pushing this season without any injuries.”
With Kelly standing over 6ft, she played a ruck role at the Breakers. She is now playing a sweeping wing role with the Southern Saints.
Sophie and Kelly have brought back plenty of knowledge to the Bass Coast Breakers, where they are now sharing coaching responsibilities.
“This year Division One is a big step, but it’s lifted our learning and made us appreciate everything that comes our way,” says Sophie.
“The girls know how to use their bodies. We have to focus on our tackling and using the ball efficiently.”
Team manager Ella Angarane says the team is showing signs of maturing.
“We are looking for a short-term coach to help guide us for the rest of this season.
“Sophie and Kelly have brought a lot of insight into our game, but it’s too hard for them to both coach and play their own roles,” says Ella.