HAWTHORN Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s premiership coach, Patrick Hill had to build the club up from scratch when he first walked through the doors.
He had no players, coaches or support staff on board, and was all of a sudden thrown into the deep end to create a team. After the club’s first trial day and training session, Hill admits he was worried. But now after an exciting blend of experience and youth culminating in a premiership, he says he couldn’t be happier.
“(In) the first training session, I didn’t know what I’d gotten myself into,” Hill said.
“It wasn’t great but we built slowly and slowly then just added some experience this year which has just changed our team around. “They played a great style last year and they were very compliant in what they wanted to do but we just needed the mature heads and some more physical bodies out there.”
The premiership also required some work behind the scenes from the coach himself, who is now 16 years into his coaching career.
“I remember working on a game style that would work on this ground (Etihad Stadium) all year and even last year,” he said. “To get here and be able to do it, I’m rapt.”
Another person who is rapt is Hawthorn President, Jeff Kennett. Hill says Kennett has been his side’s number one supporter all year.
“He really gets around the girls, he loves them as I do and it’s great to see someone of his age and where he’s come from to really embrace women’s footy for what it is and it’s beautiful,” the Hawthorn VFLW coach said.
Together, Hill and Kennett are out to prove a point that the Hawthorn Football Club is completely invested in women’s football.
“I still see on social media, there’s this thought process out there that we don’t care and we haven’t cared about women’s footy and we’re sort of late to the party and we don’t really care anyway,” Hill said. “Nothing could be further from the truth, we really wanted to come out here today and show that not only do we care about women’s footy, but we care about women’s issues. “We really want to excel in this as well.”
The players have also played a part in caring for each other, with Hill admitting that forward, Phoebe McWilliams has been one of the players who has bonded with the younger girls in the side. This has benefited the likes of Eastern Ranges duo, Mikala Cann and Emerson Woods, and former Vic Metro representative, Olivia Flanagan, who Hill says have been outstanding this season.
“Young Mikala Cann, we call her the bull and she just loves the contest,” he said. “She’s an extremely coachable player and she slotted straight into our midfield. “Emerson Woods just runs all day and even Liv Flanagan, we were able to get her up today after doing a hammy in Darwin, she re-twinged it again a couple of weeks ago and we thought the dream was over. “But for her to get up and get through and play an important role for us was fantastic. “They had youthful exuberance, they had some real vibe around the group. “Phoebe McWilliams has really taken to them and they’ve really taken to her. “It’s been fantastic to watch those relationships develop.”
Of course, it was hard to go past Chantella Perera’s game on the day, with the defender taking home the Lisa Hardeman medal for the best on ground. Hill was not only impressed with her game at Etihad Stadium, but also praises her consistent efforts throughout the year.
“She was fantastic last year, she played on all the best players in the league and never got beaten once,” he said. “Maybe Chloe Molloy at the start of this year kicked some nice goals, but today I thought she added the offensive side to her game. “She’s really cool and composed with the ball, her skills were great and she’s just a great athlete. “She’s been a champion WNBL player and now she’s a VFLW premiership player. “It just shows how good women are when you give them the opportunity.”