The Orange Tigerettes have added many new faces to their side in season 2018 after a raft of players moved on at the end of last year due to moving away, work or family commitments.
But those who expected the side to fall apart have been proven wrong.
The Tigerettes have won two games this season against Cowra and Parkes, and have held the Central West AFL’s best in patches over the opening rounds – notably last week against the third-placed Bathurst Bushrangers last week.
On top of adding half-a-dozen new players, the side has had ring-ins most weeks to make up for players being unavailable – a problem made bigger by the Tigers’ five away games and three byes to start the season.
While initially slated to play round three at the new home of Waratahs, that match against the Bushrangers was rescheduled due to later in the season due to issues with the surface.
This weekend, finally, both seniors sides will play their first home games, bolstering the Tigerettes’ numbers to give them a shot at having their best 18 on the park for the first time this season.
Laura Bennett is one of those who has slotted right into the side. She’s new to Australian rules, and new to Orange, where she is studying as part of a her post-graduate course.
One of the main things I looked for when I came to Orange was if I had a team.Laura Bennett
“My sister plays for Mildura and I had one game with them once and I had so much fun,” she said.
“It was one of the main things I looked for when I came to Orange was if I had a team and I was pleased to see there was, with [Australian Rules] being a much more Victorian sport.”
Bennett said she’d loved her time in the yellow and black.
“It’s been really good, everyone’s so welcoming, by the first training they all had my name memorised and everyone’s been great,” she said.
Being from Victoria, including a stint studying at Melbourne Uni – where the very air you breathe drips Aussie rules – and spending time playing social netball, hockey and volleyball, Bennett hasn’t found the jump into football daunting.
“The skills are okay, I’ve got okay ball handling skills from netball and being pretty tall to start with but it’s improved heaps since I started, and I think things like handballing and kicking are hard on the joints but you build up your resilience pretty quickly,” she said.
“I kind of knew the rules, there were a few little ones like running across the mark which I didn’t know but the umps are really good about letting us know about those little things, if you keep doing it they’ll take you aside and explain very nicely but it’s been really good.”
Bennett said picking up wins had been “super exciting”, and even in the results that hadn’t gone the way Tigerettes wanted they’ve avoided blow-outs, with no side besting them by more than 10 goals.
Emma Clark is another first-year player for the Tigerettes who has loved every minute of being on the field.
She’s had a stellar start to her Aussie rules career, too, being picked in the representative game with just four full games under her belt.
“I’ve been watching the AFLW and that got me into playing [Australian rules],” she said.
“Watching that and jumping in has been fantastic, I’m just having a crack – I get put wherever and just try my best.
“The representative game was really good.”
The Tigerettes’ game against Parkes Panthers kicks off from 12.45 at Waratahs Sportsground.