by callum dick
Australian Rules: It was always going to be a tough ask for the South Burnett Saints, up against competition heavyweights Toowoomba Tigers on Saturday.
The Tigers have been the yardstick of the AFL Darling Downs Women's competition for three years, and showed their pedigree in a dominant 129-2 performance at Rockville Park.
But despite the scoreboard, Saints coach Adam Bowater remained optimistic about the progression of his young side in just their third season.
"It was a really good contest, the scoreboard was no indication of how well we played,” Bowater said.
"Some people look at the scoreboard and won't appreciate what else goes into the game. We had the ball near our goals probably 10 times where we should have scored, but just lacked that finishing touch.
"We're so close, because you see bits of play where we move it quickly from the backline to the foward line, but a single bad decision means you turn it over quickly. Against a team like the Tigers you can't afford to do that.”
Key to the Saints' scoring woes was Ashleigh Irvine's absence, who has been a key marking target for the South Burnett side this season.
"We were a little undermanned, with a few out through injury and work commitments,” Bowater said.
"It didn't help not having Ash Irvine up forward, we missed her experience in the forward line, but also some of the experienced midfield players were also out which made things awkward for us.”
Travelling light-on for the contest, the Saints were lent two players by the Tigers and Bowater was thrilled with their influence on the girls.
"The two girls who came over from Toowoomba did a terrific job, not just playing but they were very encouraging for the girls and giving them advice,” Bowater said.
"The Tigers have a really good culture, they want other teams to do well and be competing.
"We have a good culture as well, but we're still learning - the Tigers have a bit more experience and ability than we do at this stage, but I think we're on the right path.”
With another pre season under their belt, Bowater believes his side has the willingness and potential to close the gap to teams like the Tigers.
"The Tigers are a step above most teams, and probably a few steps above us,” Bowater said.
"But I think we're doing everything the right way. It's just time and experience that will get us there.
"Some things are hard to improve on throughout the year, but I think next year is a great opportunity for us to go to that next level as far as implementing game plans.”