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All WA squad 'better prepared' for AFLW

Marc McGowan - afl.com.au  November 27, 2017 12:08 PM

Michelle Cowan spoke to the media ahead of AFLW pre-season training.

Fremantle has "thoroughly" analysed its shortcomings in the inaugural NAB AFL Women's season as it seeks redemption in the 2018 campaign.

The Freo Dockers entered the first season as premiership favourites, owing partly to highly regarded coach Michelle Cowan and Western Australia's reputation as a hotbed for female talent.

Half of the competition's 16 marquee players were from the west, including Fremantle's Kara Donnellan and Kiara Bowers, but that depth failed to translate to on-field success for the Dockers.

The first blow came early, when Bowers ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee playing for WAWFL team Coastal Titans in August last year and sat out the AFLW season.

Fremantle's sole victory wasn't until round six over Carlton, and a round-three draw with bottom side Greater Western Sydney delivered its only other points from the seven-game season.

"A real positive for us is that when you do lose games, you really look at what your program is and you look really thoroughly at what you're doing," Cowan said last week as the squad started pre-season training.

"There's so much growth and so much learning for us in our off-season phase, and we really committed to the way we want to play and we'll tweak that in a number of ways and get to work.

"There's a lot of hard work to do and we've got (about two months before the pre-season clash with Adelaide in Darwin on January 20) to make sure we get that right."

Bowers is fit again, and the Freo Dockers recruited marquee player Kellie Gibson from Adelaide and ex-Giants key defender Alex Williams, who are both West Australians.

But star midfielder Kirby Bentley will miss the season recovering from a right knee injury sustained in this year's NAB AFLW State of Origin contest.

"(Bowers) worked really hard in her rehab and recovery from that injury," Cowan said.

"She's just an exceptional person who's worked really hard, and I know that she's really proud to pull on the jumper and the girls will certainly get around her – it's an exciting time.

"She's an elite midfielder and an elite kick and she'll [provide] support in our forward line or even run through the midfield as well to build her back to full capacity and being able to play a full game."

Cowan said she was proud to have a list solely comprising West Australians and confident her players' experiences from the first season would hold Fremantle in good stead.

"We're better prepared, having played a season of 16-a-side," she said.

"That was new to us for season 2017 – it was never done in the history of the game – so to have those games under our belt, to have education and vision that we can now coach with, will certainly benefit us moving forward."

The Fremantle Dockers face the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval in round one on February 4, before hosting Collingwood in the first Australian Football match at Optus Stadium six days later.

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