London tournament a success for Midnight Suns

Canada’s women’s Australian Rules football development side – the Midnight Suns – has returned from London with two wins and a loss, but coach Jason Arnold said the tournament was more important than the results alone.

He said the opportunity to play against quality opposition on full-sized pitches gave his players an experience not widely available in domestic Canadian footy.

“International footy is different brand altogether. Given it’s 18-a-side, it suits inside players more than outside running players especially with the developing countries,” Arnold said.

“Many of our players play 9 to 12-a-side locally which is a great introduction so having to be involved in more contests was fantastic for their development.

“They will relish going back to their clubs and having more space to work in and more time to deliver the ball after this experience.”

The Suns came away from the tournament with only a loss to former world champions Ireland, 1-22, while defeating the Great Britain Swans, 18-0, and a combined London All-Stars, 49-21.

Arnold said he was pleased with the girls’ performances and they quickly learned from their mistakes.

“They were outstanding against the London All-Stars with six first-quarter goals from nine inside-50s, the game was essentially over,” he said.

“We felt that against Ireland the girls came in feeling it was just going to happen and we had too many passengers. They were unaccountable, were not prepared to be first to the contest and Ireland deserved the win.

“After some honest discussions, we could not have been prouder of how they responded keeping Great Britain scoreless after they beat Ireland the day before. It was a fantastic way to finish the tournament.”

It was a full team effort from the Suns, but there were still some standouts among the group.

Assistant coaches Lara Hilmi and Aimee Legault were great on and off the field, and gained the highest of the Suns’ possessions throughout the tournament, with 77 and 38 disposals respectively.

Central Blues player Natalie Dowhayko made a promising international debut in the ruck with 30 possessions and the most marks by a Sun.

Etobicoke Roo Amanda Irwin gathered 36 possessions and top-scored for Canada with three goals, while Nicole Robertson of the Calgary Kookaburras was dangerous up forward with two goals and 19 possessions.

Lizzie Desouza (24 possessions), Caroline Leduc (24 possessions and a goal) and Brandie Corrigan (23 possessions) all had an impact both in disposals and importantly as inside players in what was a heavily contested weekend of footy.

Arnold said their performances against full-strength national sides showed how well women’s footy is going in Canada.

“To have two wins and know our best would have given us a chance of winning all three games has me feeling we are in a really strong position as a nation,” he said.

“My goal as head coach has been to provide a platform for development from local level right through to AFLW in Australia. Having had two players from our program drafted into the AFLW and a few more on the cusp, this current performance further highlights the talent we have in our program.

“The girls learned a lot and have a lot of work to do to make the next step to represent the Lights but we're confident we saw a number of future Northern Lights on show in London.”




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