Heidelberg West senior women’s star Chloe Rowan is hoping the ‘fun’ environment that her side has established can lead to more success following a strong inaugural senior women’s campaign for the club last year.
The Hawks officially formed their first NFNL senior women’s team just weeks out from the opening game of the 2023 campaign, however they soon flourished in the competition, finishing the Division 3 home and away season in second position with a 11-3 record.
They won their first final in convincing fashion before suffering defeats in their next two games, including a nail-biting defeat to Darebin 2 in the preliminary final, to fall short of a maiden grand final berth.
Still, the 25-year-old has nothing but pride for how her side conducted themselves on the field in 2023.
“I feel like the season was definitely unforgettable, we started the season two weeks before our first practice match and we were scrambling for players, and then all of a sudden, we had a full team and just so much love came out of that team,” she said.
“I feel like a lot of us came in last year not knowing what was going to happen and how the season was going to play out, but the fact that we made it to a prelim for our first ever year is a very exciting feeling for all of us.”
Rowan added that the creation of a senior women’s team has assisted Heidelberg West in becoming a more inclusive community, while combining training sessions with the senior men’s team has helped form a one club mentality.
“The club supports us women in every aspect, not just on the field but off it as well, they provide such good training, they give us a space where the club is inclusive to both men and women,” she said.
“We’re very well conjoined, we train with the boys, and I think that dynamic of… training with each other does a lot for us as women, it makes us feel included, it makes us feel acknowledged and heard as well.”
Ahead of the formation of the senior women’s side 12 months ago, the club appointed Brett Pollard as coach, who was fresh off a successful four-year stint as Essendon VFLW assistant coach.
With a mentor that has multiple years of women’s coaching experience, including leading West Preston-Lakeside to the 2018 Division 2 women’s premiership, Rowan praised the tireless work Pollard has put in to help get the best out of the whole team while also enjoying their football experience.
“With Polly (Brett Pollard) our coach, he’s a fantastic man and he definitely strives for us to win, but he’s main priority is for us to just have fun out there,” she said.
“I think with the connections that we’ve built along last season; we’re coming into training with so much love and joy for each other that, training is not just about training, it’s also about having fun.
“Polly tries to emphasise that. You can’t win if you’re not having fun with the people that you’re around.”
Last year was also a successful one for Rowan individually, as she claimed the Division 3 MVP, while also finishing fourth in the Division 3 league best and fairest.
With 2023 being her first season of football since Under-12’s, Rowan was pleased to have played her role at the club, crediting her teammates for her personal accolades.
“I feel as though they trust me on the field, and I trust them. When you have so much love for your team, you strive as a team and as individuals to do well,” she said.
As the countdown to the 2024 campaign ramps up, the morale at pre-season training has been strong according to Rowan, who highlighted a couple of names to look out for this year that will compliment an improved playing squad.
“Molly Reinke is a phenomenal footballer; she’s just a little jet and she just runs around and creates space,” she said.
“Maddi Fraser is just an absolute bull on the football field and she’s only 21, so her confidence is just starting and it’s exciting to see her start to peak on the field.
“There are so many players that I can think of that haven’t touched a football before last season and are now building the confidence to produce a great season this year.”
In terms of expectations however, Rowan didn’t want to put any pressure on her side to repeat their impressive efforts from last year, saying that the focus will be the same as it was when they started out 12 months ago.
“We’ve come out of a prelim and I think that’s an exciting moment and 100% we want to make it back there, but we’re not going to put the pressure on ourselves, we play our best game when we are having fun and we are enjoying ourselves,” she said.
“We would love to be there, but obviously it’s about making sure that we’re all feeling good and we’re 100% within ourselves and within the group. That will just come naturally.
“For myself, I’m just happy to play with my friends and enjoy Heidelberg West, it’s a great football club to be a part of, socially they’re a very good environment to be around.”