Swans draft in Hunter trio

FLYING HIGH: Jess Cassidy, Alison Parkin and Amy Hessell will play for the Sydney Swans women’s academy against the GWS Giants on Saturday. Picture: Marina Neil
Nanjing Night Net

JESS Cassidy first kicked a Sherrin at Grossmann High Schoolfour years ago.

On Saturday, the 21-year-old will line up for the Sydney Swans Academy side against GWS Giants at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

A strong performance there will put the defender in contention for a place inthe inaugural national women’s league.

Cassidy, who plays for the Maitland Saints,and Gosford duo Alison Parkin, 28, and Amy Hessell, 23, have been drafted into the Swans side from the Hunter-Central Coast Academy.

“Jess is a Maitland product and only started playing seniorAFL last year,” Hunter-Central Coast development manager Craig Golledge said.“She is a great example of our Swans Cup schoolgirl competition. I remember when she was captain of Grossman High and helped take them through to the state knockout final. We saw the potential in her then and she has really developed.

“Alison and Amy have been playing in the Sydney competition in recent years for Gosford, who have joined the Black Diamond competition,and are two of the more experienced players involved in the academy.”

The Hunter-Central Coast academy is one of five in NSW along with Sydney, Western Sydney, Canberra and Wagga.

“We have 28 players ranging from age 15 to 31,” Golledge said.

Parkin and Hessell were a part of the Swans side which beat the Giants by five points at Moore Park last month. Newcastle City’s MeaghanMcDonald also played in that match but missed selection for Saturday.

A NSW team will be selected after Saturday’s game whichis a curtain raiser to the AFL blockbuster between the same teams.That team will take on South Australia later in the season.A 10-team national women’s league kicks off next year.

“State representatives will certainly be of interest to the teams competing in the national league,” Golledge said.

Golledge said he had been blown away at the skill level of the women in the first match between the Swans and Giants.

“To go to the next level was a bit of a shock for some of our girls, not only for the women’s team, but the girls involved in the youth game,” he said. “They realise they have a lot to learn and a lot more development to get up tothe level of the Sydney, Canberra and Wagga girls.”

Meanwhile,Greater Western Sydney captain Callan Ward says his team are grown men who should no longer be slapped the tag of the Swans’ “little brother”.

The derby count is a lopsided 7-1 in favour of the Swans but the gap between the two clubs is narrowing.

Their days of using inexperience as an excuse are also numbered. The team the Giants fielded against Geelong last week had played a total ofonly 31 fewer games than the Swans round two side.

“We’re all grown men now, our average age isn’t too much lessthan what they are,” Ward said.”Everyone talks about big brother, little brother it’s not reallythat anymore,we’re out there to play games.We’refully grown men now, we’re really happy just to take the Swans on now and play like grown men.”

The Giants have been dealt ablow with promising young defender Caleb Marchbank ruled out for six to eight weeks with an anklesyndesmosis injury.

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