The AFL should take advantage of the NRL's absence during their trip to Las Vegas with blockbuster games in Sydney.
On Friday evening, Nicola Barr kicked three goals for the GWS Giants against the Western Bulldogs, becoming the player with the most games played before kicking their first goal.
“I had a good laugh when I saw that stat,” said Barr.
“It’s probably not a stat people are chasing down, but it was good to get a reward for my effort.”
The lead-up to the AFLW season was uncertain for Barr. There was, of course, the lingering impact of the pandemic, but ten weeks ago, Barr dislocated her shoulder.
Surgery was considered an option, but instead the Giants took a more conservative approach, including moving into the forward line for the first time in Barr’s career.
“In the past I have been on the wing, so this has been a bit challenge for me,” said Barr.
“We have a lot of talent in our forward line and across the park who have been encouraging me to take the game on.”
This is central to how GWS are aspiring to play their footy this year.
Coach Alan McConnell has been encouraging the side to be brave with the footy in the week leading up to the game against the Western Bulldogs.
“Last week was a tough week for us and our focus leading into this week was to have fun and to ‘try, try again,’” said Barr.
“Al kept saying it through the week: it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, keep your head up and keep trying.”
The Giants’ 21-point win over the Bulldogs was made even more impressive because of the challenges the team faced leading into the game.
They Sydney squad have faced significant pandemic challenges – forced to move from state to state, avoiding quarantine and border closures, operated in bubbles and seen matches moved, changed and even postponed.
But leading into the game against the Bulldogs, a number of Giants players INCLUDING Bec Privitelli, Katie Loynes, Pepa Randall, Tait Mackrill and Georgina Garnett were unable to play after contracting, or being a close contact of someone with COVID-19.
But these challenges have helped build the group’s resilience.
“We have a different list this year, with plenty of young players and what that has done is brought plenty of energy into our group, but also given some of the older members of the group the chance to talk about our former disruptive seasons, what we learnt and what we went through,” said Barr.
“We are learning that you have to take the knocks when they come, adapt and control what you can in the situation.”
Unfortunately for the Giants, their game against St Kilda, scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed due to health and safety protocols.
But when they next take the field, there are plenty of positives to take away from their performance on Friday night.
“Being in New South Wales, in the past our depth has been questioned,” said Barr.
“But what we showed on Friday was that those young women can stand up and have fun at the same time; that’s what we wanted them to focus on.
“They brought so much energy to our pre-season and really refreshed the group and they did the same thing on Friday night.
“We had so much fun playing with them and it gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
For Barr, the Giants delivered on playing brave footy on Friday night, particularly given the disruption to their preparation.
There is also acknowledgement that, in the past, there have been situations where GWS revert to slower and safer football.
“We need to remember that it starts at the source,” she said.
“In our game against North Melbourne we were probably focusing too much on what we can do with our ball movement, but our biggest strength is our contested ball.
“As long as we get that right, it comes naturally to us to move the ball nicely.
“But we need to make sure we get it right at the source and then back ourselves to take the game on.”